Debt ceiling talks heat up between Biden and Republicans

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., left, and Rep. Patrick McHenry, RN.C., speak to reporters about the debit cap negotiations as they leave the House Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill Hill Club in Washington on Tuesday May 23, 2023.

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WASHINGTON — Urgent talks to raise the U.S. debt ceiling appeared closer to an agreement on Thursday, with just seven days before the United States faces an imminent threat of default.

But negotiators have warned that the final phase of the talks is likely to be the trickiest and toughest for both sides.

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“We are in a sensitive phase, with sensitive issues that remain. These sensitive issues are the most difficult issues that we have discussed,” Republican negotiator Patrick McHenry told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday. “Everyone is trying to do a good job of figuring out the finer details of this, but nothing is being done.”

McHenry said no face-to-face meeting with the White House negotiating team was scheduled for Thursday, but he did not take that as a sign that talks had stalled.

“They have work at the White House, we have work here on Capitol Hill. I don’t know if we’re physically together, but there’s alignment on the whole set of things that we need to work on,” McHenry said. .

Learn more: What Republicans want in exchange for raising the debt ceiling

At the White House, President Joe Biden sounded a cautiously optimistic note. “The only way forward is with a bipartisan agreement, and I believe we will come to an agreement that will allow us to move forward and protect American workers in this country,” he said Thursday.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he did not know if there would be a deal reached on Thursday.

“We’ve already talked to the White House today, we’ll keep working,” he said after the House wrapped up its final vote of the week and prepared to leave town. “They work on the numbers, we work on the numbers and we will work together.”

An influential Republican said he was optimistic a deal could be reached before the holiday weekend. Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, who chairs the 156-member Republican study committee, said Thursday he thought it was “likely” that a deal would be reached by Friday afternoon.

“We’re getting closer to an agreement. I think those are some of the tougher things they’re working on right now,” Hern told Reuters. “You’re likely to see a deal by tomorrow afternoon.”

Fitch warns against US credit rating

Thursday’s talks were infused with a new sense of urgency after credit rating agency Fitch announced on Wednesday night that it was placing the United States’ triple-A status on “negative rating watch.”

The agency also strongly implied that if Congress did not reach an agreement by the June 1 deadline set by the Treasury Department to raise or suspend the debt limit, Fitch would lower the company’s credit rating. America.

Another sign that a deal might be close was a set of additional demands made on McCarthy by the most conservative bloc of House Republicans, something GOP leaders had expected whenever talks got closer. a compromise.

Thursday, 35 of McCarthy’s loudest critics in the House GOP published a letter urging the speaker to abandon ongoing talks and issue a new list of far more polarizing demands.

House Freedom Caucus members have urged McCarthy to use the threat of an unprecedented default as leverage to force the White House to agree to an extension of the short-term debt ceiling through June and use the extra time to get more concessions from the White House. , including a Borders and Immigration Bill and a campaign to discredit Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The letter offered no guidance on how any of those proposals might pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, a necessary step to become law.

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But it’s not just Republicans who have shown signs of infighting this week.

House Democrats are increasingly critical of the White House’s apparent choice not to regularly release details of the talks.

As a tactic, this stands in stark contrast to McCarthy’s public relations press, which chats with reporters several times a day and appears on television almost daily.

The White House has sought to deflect criticism and says Biden has been talking about the debt ceiling for months.

“We have been very clear over the past five months,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier this week. “I wouldn’t just watch the last two days. Over the last five months, you’ve constantly heard about this president.”

On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients released a rare Tweeter on the debt ceiling.

“Even now, Republicans want to add $3.5 trillion to the debt by extending Trump’s tax giveaways for the wealthy,” he wrote. What Zients didn’t say is that Biden also hasants to extend these cutsbut only for households earning less than $400,000, and offset the cost by raising other taxes.

Shortly after Zients’ tweet, Biden made a point of addressing the White House debt ceiling talks, though he still revealed little about their stance.

This is a developing story. Please check for updates.


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