WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spoke directly Saturday evening as they raced to strike an agreement that would resolve the looming debt crisis ahead of a June 5 deadline and avert a catastrophic U.S. default. Biden also spoke earlier in the day with Democratic leaders in Congress to discuss the status […]
Biden, McCarthy speak on debt limit; ‘thorny issues’ remain
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spoke directly Saturday evening as they raced to strike an agreement that would resolve the looming debt crisis ahead of a June 5 deadline and avert a catastrophic U.S. default.
Biden also spoke earlier in the day with Democratic leaders in Congress to discuss the status of the talks, according to three people familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. But the two sides have not reached a deal yet.
“Big, thorny issues remain,” one of the top negotiators, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., told reporters in the evening.
Some of those outstanding issues he said “the president and speaker have to resolve at that level.”
The Republican House speaker gathered top allies behind closed doors at the Capitol as negotiators pushed for a deal that would raise the nation’s borrowing limit and avoid a first-ever default on the federal debt, while also making spending cuts that House Republicans are demanding.
As he arrived at the Capitol early in the day, McCarthy said that Republican negotiators were “closer to an agreement.”
McCarthy’s comments echoed the latest public assessment from Biden, who said Friday evening that bargainers were “very close.” Biden and McCarthy last met face-to-face on the matter Monday.
Their new discussion Saturday by phone came after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress that the United States could default on its debt obligations by June 5 — four days later than previously estimated — if lawmakers do not act in time to raise the federal debt ceiling. The extended “X-date” gives the two sides a bit of extra time as they scramble for a deal.
But as another day dragged on with the country watching and waiting for an outcome, it appeared some of the problems over policy issues that have dogged talks all week remained unresolved.
Both sides have suggested one of the main holdups is a GOP effort to expand existing work requirements for recipients of food stamps and other federal aid programs, a longtime Republican goal that Democrats have strenuously opposed. The White House said the Republican proposals were “cruel and senseless.”
They also appear to still be laboring over a compromise on federal permitting changes that would ease regulations for developing oil, gas and renewable energy projects and foster new transmission line connections.
McCarthy, who dashed out before the lunch hour and arrived back at the Capitol with a big box of takeout, declined to elaborate on those discussions. One of his negotiators, Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves, said there was “not a chance” that Republicans might relent on the work requirements issue.
Any deal would need to be a political compromise in a divided Congress. Many of the conservative Trump-aligned Republicans in Congress have long been skeptical of the Treasury’s projections, and they are pressing McCarthy to hold out.
“We’re constantly in touch with our members, letting them know that what is being reported, you should not accept that,” Emmer said. “If there’s an agreement, we will let them know.”
The Republican proposal on work requirements would save $11 billion over 10 years by raising the maximum age for existing standards that require able-bodied adults who do not live with dependents to work or attend training programs.