As the standoff between the White House and Republican congressional leaders persisted, it appeared like there had been little movement in debt ceiling negotiations on Saturday. After stalling earlier in the day, negotiations between the White House’s officials and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy briefly resumed Friday evening, but neither side was able to reach an agreement.
McCarthy said on Twitter on Saturday that the “White House is moving backward in negotiations.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed in a statement released Saturday night that McCarthy’s team had offered a plan on Friday that “was a big step back and contained a set of extreme partisan demands that could never pass both Houses of Congress.”
The two sides held a brief meeting on Friday night that lasted less than an hour and ended just after 7:30 p.m. local time. This was after the two sides claimed earlier on Friday that negotiations had completely stalled. The groups left the meeting without coming to an agreement but were expected to maintain contact, CBS News has learned.
Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina answered “no” when asked if he expected a solution would be achieved over the weekend. Both sides had a “candid discussion,” according to GOP Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, who spoke to reporters as he left the meeting on Friday night.
However, Steve Ricchetti, a White House negotiator, told reporters, “we’re going to keep working tonight.”
Earlier on Friday, when negotiations first stalled, McCarthy’s chief negotiator Graves charged the White House with being “unreasonable.” When Graves left that previous meeting, he observed, “We’re not there.” Graves claimed that the decision to pause was taken “because it’s just not productive” and “they’re just unreasonable.”
The House approved a solid package with significant cost reductions that is responsible and that puts us on a road to bend the curve. We won’t sit here and talk to ourselves until people are willing to have rational discussions about how to actually go forward and do the right thing. So, he said, that is what is happening. Graves admitted that he had no idea when the group might meet again.
Uncertainty over the specific issue impeding negotiations was followed by a wide gap between the conflicting objectives and spending priorities of the two sides. Spending caps, according to a GOP aide, could be one of the sticking points, while a Democratic aide found encouragement in the fact that the White House seemed to be standing its ground and not “giving away the farm.” The Democratic aide emphasized once more the need for bipartisanship in any agreement.
The White House fears that Republican negotiators’ proposal to reduce overall spending while increasing defence spending will result in deeper cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, which includes spending on things like health care and education.
The fact that President Biden is in Japan for a gathering of G7 leaders only serves to exacerbate the situation. He was anticipated to end his trip to the Asia-Pacific region early and fly back to Washington on Sunday to handle the situation.
From Japan, Biden told reporters on Saturday that he thought an agreement could be struck. I still think we’ll be able to avoid defaulting and we’ll make some progress, added Biden.
The White House admitted that there are “real differences between the parties on budget issues” and predicted that “talks will be difficult,” but added that “[t]he president’s team is working hard towards a reasonable bipartisan solution that can pass the House and the Senate.”
The apparent setback occurred after McCarthy and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, both expressed optimism about the state of negotiations on Thursday. The Speaker claimed to be able to “see the path that we can come to an agreement,” and Schumer said that the talks were “making progress.”
When questioned about similar remarks on Friday, McCarthy said he “truly believed we were at the location where I could see the future” but “we can’t be spending more money next year, we have to spend less than we spent last year. It’s fairly simple.
As early as June 1, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the United States could be unable to pay its debts. If Congress does not act to raise or suspend the debt ceiling by early June, and possibly as early as June 1, “[W]e still estimate that Treasury will likely no longer be able to satisfy all of the government’s obligations,” Yellen wrote earlier this week.
Democrats had previously hoped for a “clean” debt limit rise, but Republicans are hoping to reduce spending and add work requirements for programs, among other things.