Whiplash Day of Debt Limit Talks Ends Without a Breakthrough
Negotiations between top White House and Republican congressional officials over a deal to raise the debt limit resumed on Friday just hours after House G.O.P. leaders said it was time to “press pause,” complaining that President Biden’s team was being unreasonable and that no progress could be made.
The abrupt turn reflected the unwieldy state of negotiations over a bipartisan deal to avert a debt default that could occur as soon as June 1. Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Friday evening declared the talks were back on after venting frustration with the White House earlier in the day. Negotiations then broke up again roughly an hour after they resumed, and it was unclear when negotiators planned to meet again.
The hourlong meeting capped a day of whiplash on Capitol Hill, as negotiators searching for a resolution to avoiding the first default in the nation’s history repeatedly restarted and ended discussions, and Republicans showed signs of increasing exasperation around negotiations on spending caps.
“It’s very frustrating if they want to come into the room and think we’re going to spend more money next year than we did this year,” Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican, said on Fox Business on Friday evening, as he announced that his deputies would return to the negotiating table. “That’s not right, and that’s not going to happen.”
Earlier in the day, Mr. McCarthy and one of his top advisers had declared that they were halting negotiations, saying that White House officials were refusing to budge on spending cuts. “We’ve got to get movement by the White House, and we don’t have any movement,” Mr. McCarthy said.
His comments marked a departure from his tone just a day earlier, when he told reporters that he could see a path to reaching a deal in principle as early as the weekend.
Still, the return to the negotiating table on Friday night underscored the mounting sense of urgency to find a resolution as Congress runs out of time to avoid the first default in the nation’s history, and the economic calamity that could follow.
Once a deal is in hand, it will take time to translate it into legislation and pass it through Congress for Mr. Biden’s signature. Mr. McCarthy has promised his conference that he will give lawmakers 72 hours to read the bill before they vote on it.
Republicans hinted that a major source of their frustration was how strictly to cap federal spending. The bill that House Republicans passed last month would raise the nation’s borrowing limit into next year in exchange for freezing spending at last year’s levels for a decade — which would lead to cuts of an average of 18 percent.
The bill is a dead letter in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus declared on Thursday that Republicans should insist that it pass as is.
“No more discussion on watering it down,” the group said in a tweet. “Period.”
White House officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations, acknowledged that there were significant differences between the parties, including around Mr. McCarthy’s stance on capping federal spending.
Former President Donald J. Trump also weighed in on Friday on Truth Social, the social media website he founded, declaring that Republicans should not make a deal on the debt ceiling unless they get everything they want.
“DO NOT FOLD!!!” he wrote.
Negotiators were at odds over a handful of issues, including the extent to which a possible deal would include tougher work requirements for social safety net programs — a proposal that has drawn a backlash from progressive Democrats — and the length of any debt-limit extension.
Conservatives in the House G.O.P. conference had grown increasingly concerned in recent days that Mr. McCarthy would agree to a deal freezing spending at current levels, rather than at last year’s levels, and would not lock in the kind of spending cuts for which they have long agitated.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.
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