HomePoliticsDebt ceiling negotiations updates between Biden, McCarthy

Debt ceiling negotiations updates between Biden, McCarthy

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday that negotiations over raising the U.S. debt limit were progressing toward a deal despite disaagreements over spending, with only eight days before the government could face an unprecedented default.

“I wouldn’t scare the markets in any shape or form,” McCarthy said on Fox Business after negotiators broke up for the day. “We will come to an agreement worthy of the American public and there should not be any fear. Money’s coming in every day.”

McCarthy, in the interview Wednesday afternoon, said he had just spoken with his top negotiators, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana. “I think today they would say they’re making progress,” the speaker said.

A tangible government spending cut in exchange for hiking the debt ceiling is a bedrock GOP demand, but a red line so far for the White House. Increasing the borrowing limit does not authorize new spending.

As the U.S. inched closer to default and possible economic chaos, McCarthy blamed Democrats for the holdup.

“And the off-ramp here is to solve the problem to spend less than we spent last year,” he said during a news conference earlier Wednesday at the Capitol.

The California Republican repeatedly touted a partisan spending bill that the House GOP passed in April with no votes from Democrats as the only option to raise the debt ceiling. “Don’t blame us Republicans when we put a reasonable bill together,” said McCarthy.

Stocks closed lower following McCarthy’s earlier comments, as investors closely watched the talks for any sign of progress.

“I think we can make progress today,” McCarthy said, but he ignored a question about whether the discussions had made headway in the last 24 hours.

After a week of meeting outside McCarthy’s office, Republican negotiators went to the White House on Wednesday, where they were expected to continue haggling in an office building adjacent to the mansion.

The talks had hit a “speed bump,” a Democratic official familiar with the situation told NBC News on Wednesday.

But outside the Beltway, concerns grew about whether McCarthy and President Joe Biden would be able to reach a deal to cut government spending enough to win the GOP votes needed to pass a bill that raises the debt ceiling before June 1.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday that she was already seeing “some stress in financial markets,” driven by fears that the U.S. could stumble into a first-ever debt default.

Debt ceiling-related stress was affecting Treasury markets in particular, Yellen said at a Wall Street Journal event. These signs of stress “should be a reminder of the importance of reaching a timely agreement.”

But after a week of daily sessions led by a group of veteran negotiators, people on both sides say the gap between what House Republicans want and what the White House is willing to give seems wider than ever.

For example, one of the lead delegates for Republicans, McHenry, laid bare on Tuesday night what had up to that point only been implied, when a reporter asked him what concession Democrats were getting as part of the talks, in order to win their votes in the House.

“The debt ceiling,” he said.

“That’s what they’re getting,” added Graves, another GOP negotiator.

This view of the past week as one where Democrats are forced to accept Republican demands, while Republicans in return offer only the chance to avoid a catastrophic debt default, would anger Democrats and decrease the odds of a deal. The GOP has pushed to cut spending as part of any agreement to increase the debt ceiling.

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A default would wreak havoc on the U.S. economy and force millions to at least temporarily lose government benefit payments many rely upon to survive.

With talks at an apparent breaking point for the second time in a week, and the likelihood of a deal in the next 24 hours — in time for the House to turn an agreement into a bill and vote for it before the weekend — looking very slim, McCarthy appeared open to letting members of the House leave D.C. for the Memorial Day weekend without a deal.

“I haven’t made that decision yet,” he told reporters Tuesday, but added, “I would have, depending on where we are in that moment, have them come home and come back.”

With Republicans appearing only to harden their position as time went on, Democrats on Wednesday accused McCarthy of caving to pressure from the far right of his caucus. They said he has yielded to members who have made a laundry list of demands, yet are unlikely to vote for a debt ceiling hike, no matter what it contains.

One of those laundry lists was released Wednesday by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. Presented as a memo, the list contained seven provisions that were included in the debt limit bill House Republicans passed this spring, but which is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“The following reforms were part of the Limit, Save, Grow Act – each are critical and none should be abandoned solely for the quest of a ‘deal,'” Roy’s memo reads.

Pressure like this from hard-liners within his own party has made McCarthy’s path to passing a bill much more treacherous, because he will need Democratic votes.

Biden has offered compromises, the Democratic official told NBC News, including freezing spending, rescinding unspent Covid funds and putting a two-year cap on spending.

But McCarthy has dismissed these concessions.

“Let me be very clear, we are not putting anything on the floor that doesn’t spend less than we spent this year,” he said Tuesday.



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