US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters as he returns from a House Republican caucus meeting in Washington, DC on May 23, 2023. Caption US.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – Talks on raising the US debt ceiling resumed on Wednesday, and both sides were still miles apart, with only eight days left to pass the bill before the US could face a serious risk of default.
At the Capitol, House Republicans and White House negotiators were expected to resume talks in a conference room outside House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office, where they sat for hours every day this week.
But outside the room, concerns grew over whether negotiators would be able to reach an agreement with Republicans to cut government spending in exchange for the GOP votes needed in the House to pass a bill raising the debt ceiling before June 1. .
A Democratic official who spoke to NBC News said there has been a “rapid bump” in the talks. But after a week of daily sessions led by a group of veteran negotiators, people on both sides said Tuesday and Wednesday that the gap between what House Republicans want and what the White House is willing to deliver is wider than ever. Seemed broad.
For example, one of the key Republican delegates, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, revealed on Tuesday night what had been implied up to that point, when a reporter asked him what concessions Democrats would make as part of the talks. Getting, so that their vote can be won in the House.
“Debt limit,” he said.
“That’s what they’re getting,” said Representative Garrett Graves of Louisiana, another GOP interlocutor.
Last week’s approach where Democrats are forced to accept Republican demands while offering Republicans only the chance to avoid a catastrophic debt default in return will undoubtedly anger Democrats and lower the odds of a deal. The GOP has insisted on spending cuts as part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling, which by itself does not authorize new outlays.
A default would wreak havoc on the US economy and force millions of people to lose government benefit payments, at least temporarily.
With talks at an apparent breaking point for the second time in a week, and the chances of a deal in the next 24 hours – time for the House to hammer out a compromise on the bill and vote on it before the weekend – are looking very slim. McCarthy appeared open to letting members of the House leave D.C. for Memorial Day weekend without a deal.
“I haven’t made that decision yet,” he told reporters Tuesday, but added, “Depending on where I am at that moment, to come home and come back.”
Republicans have only appeared to harden their position as time passes, with Democrats accusing McCarthy on Wednesday of exerting pressure from the far right of his caucus. He said he has succumbed to members who have made a laundry list of demands, yet are unlikely to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling, whatever it entails.
Biden has offered a compromise, a Democratic official told NBC News, that includes freezing spending, rescuing unfunded COVID funds and imposing a two-year cap on spending.
But McCarthy rejected these concessions.
“Let me be very clear, we are not putting anything on the floor that doesn’t cost less than what we spent this year,” he said Tuesday.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.