US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters upon his return from a House Republican caucus meeting, US Caption May 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Negotiations on raising the U.S. debt ceiling resumed on Wednesday, and the two sides were still miles apart with just eight days to pass a bill before the earliest date in which the United States could face a serious risk of default.
On Capitol Hill, negotiators for House Republicans and the White House were due to resume talks in the conference room right next to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office, where they have holed up for hours every day this week .
But outside the room, concerns grew over whether negotiators would be able to reach a deal with Republicans to cut government spending in exchange for the GOP votes needed in the House to pass a bill. bill raising the debt ceiling before June 1.
A Democratic official who spoke to NBC News said the talks had hit a “speed bump”. But after a week of daily sessions led by a group of seasoned negotiators, people on both sides said Tuesday night and Wednesday that the gap between what House Republicans want and what the White House is prepared to give seems wider than ever.
For example, one of the top Republican delegates, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, on Tuesday night exposed what until then had only been implied, when a reporter asked him what concession the Democrats were getting. in the talks, to win their votes in the House.
“The debt ceiling,” he said.
“That’s what they’re getting,” added Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, another GOP negotiator.
This view of last week as one where Democrats are forced to accept Republican demands, while Republicans only offer the chance to avoid a catastrophic default, would no doubt anger Democrats and would reduce the chances of an agreement. The GOP has pushed for spending cuts as part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling, which alone does not authorize new spending.
A default would wreak havoc on the US economy and force millions of people to at least temporarily lose government benefit payments.
With talks at an apparent breaking point for the second time in a week, and a deal likely within the next 24 hours – in time for the House to turn a deal into a bill and vote in favor before the weekend – seems very slim McCarthy seemed open to letting House members leave DC for Memorial Day weekend without a deal.
“I haven’t made that decision yet,” he told reporters on Tuesday, but added: “I should have, depending on where we are at the time, brought them back to home and come back.”
With Republicans only seeming to harden their stance over time, Democrats on Wednesday accused McCarthy of bowing to pressure from the far-right in his caucus. They said he gave in to members who had made a long list of demands but were unlikely to vote for a debt ceiling hike no matter what it contained.
Biden has offered compromises, a Democratic official told NBC News, including freezing spending, writing off unspent COVID funds and putting in place a two-year cap on spending.
But McCarthy rejected those concessions.
“Let me be very clear, we’re not putting anything on the floor that doesn’t spend less than what we’ve spent this year,” he said Tuesday.
This is a developing story, please check for updates.