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President Biden said Friday he believes House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is “an honest man” ahead of their closely-watched May 9 meeting to discuss the debt limit as the U.S. heads closer to a potential default.

Mr. Biden also said that Mr. McCarthy is limited about what he can do because he is under the thumb of far-right Republicans.

“I think he’s honest man,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle.

The president quickly turned to the struggles of Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, to become House speaker in January. It took 15 votes for Mr. McCarthy to become speaker after he brokered a deal with lawmakers Mr. Biden referred to as “MAGA Republicans.”

“He just about sold away everything to the far right,” Mr. Biden said. “And the MAGA Republicans really have put him in a position where in order to stay speaker he’s agreed to things that maybe he believes but are just extreme,” Mr. Biden said in the interview.

The president’s comments come just days ahead of his White House meeting with Mr. McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat.

Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the nation could default on its debt as early as June, which would trigger economic chaos in the U.S. and across the globe.

The White House has insisted that Congress should raise the debt ceiling without any conditions, accusing Republicans of holding the U.S. economy hostage to get what they want.

Republicans have seized on the issue to extract spending cuts and other policy concessions from Mr. Biden. The president said he is willing to negotiate government spending with Mr. McCarthy, but that should be kept separate from any vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Mr. McCarthy last month rallied Republicans to pass legislation that would raise the debt ceiling.

The bill would raise the debt limit until March 2024 in exchange for cutting spending by $4.5 trillion and limiting the growth of future spending. It would also reclaim unspent COVID-19 relief funds, cancel Mr. Biden‘s student loan forgiveness program and rescind new funding for the IRS.

In the MSNBC interview, Mr. Biden called the budget “ridiculous.” 

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