Congressional leaders haven’t reached an agreement with the White House over raising the debt limit yet, but they’ve agreed to continue talks to try to find a bipartisan solution.

“Everyone, including the speaker, agreed we need to be bipartisan,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday after meeting at the White House with President Joe Biden; Vice President Kamala Harris; House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken.; and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

“The idea of having a partisan bill, we knew would get us nowhere and everyone freely admitted that in the room,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said.

Schumer said a bipartisan bill needed to be passed with bipartisan support in both chambers and “we all came to an agreement that we are going to continue discussions.”

“Having a bipartisan bill in both chambers is the only way we’re going to avoid default,” he said. “Everyone agreed that default would be the worst outcome, a horrible situation for America and America’s families.”

McCarthy said the sides remain “far apart” but that the meeting “set the stage to carry on further conversations” in the days until the U.S. is expected to hit its debt limit.

“We’ve got to find a way that we can curb our spending, raise our debt limit and also grow our economy, and the president agreed to appoint a couple people from his administration to sit down and negotiate directly with my team, so I found that to be productive,” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.”

Biden tapped advisor Steve Ricchetti and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young to negotiate directly with the Republican team, which is lead by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., and aides to McCarthy, according to NBC News.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York listens as House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York speaks with reporters after a meeting with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders about the debt ceiling at the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Washington. | Evan Vucci, Associated Press

McCarthy said the structure improves negotiations but that spending has to be cut. Republicans in the House passed a bill that raises the debt limit but also cuts spending.

“How much debt is too much?” he asked, comparing the U.S. debt limit to a young person who maxes out their credit card. “You’re still going to fund the things that are most important to you, but you’re going to eliminate the waste.”

While “it’s unfortunate that we are where we are,” McCarthy said, “it’s not that difficult to get to an agreement.”

Biden thinks he can reach an agreement with Republicans over the debt ceiling

McConnell said each side knows “we’re not going to default” and “this shouldn’t be this hard.”

“They know it, we know it,” he said, but “we’re running out of time.”

Jeffries called the meeting “positive” and said a bipartisan solution anchored in common ground was the only path forward.

“We all agreed that default is not an acceptable option and must be avoided,” he said. “And we all agreed that over the next few weeks we have to proceed with the fierce urgency of now in order to make sure we can reach that bipartisan, common sense, common ground agreement so that we can protect the health and safety and economic well-being of the American people.”

The U.S. Treasury Department said the U.S. could reach its debt limit as early as June 1. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would trigger the nation’s first default in history, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said it would likely result in a recession.