While Debt Ceiling Talks Progress, Hardline Republicans Give For ‘War’

The White House and congressional Republican negotiators worked around the clock as the Memorial Day weekend began, trying to reach a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and avert a financial crisis, with complaints growing among the hard right that President Biden had gained the upper hand in conversations.

Representative Patrick T. McHenry, Republican of North Carolina and one of the chief negotiators, told reporters Saturday on Capitol Hill that the parties were either “hours or days” away from a deal.

“I think we̵[ads1]7;re all tired,” said Mr. McHenry, who has been involved in negotiations for 11 days. “But that doesn’t mean we’re willing to just take something that we don’t think is acceptable. Our Republican members expect us to fight for a good deal.”

After a late night of negotiations Friday that continued into Saturday morning, Speaker Kevin McCarthy returned to the Capitol from lunch with a box of takeout food to dozens of reporters who had camped outside awaiting news.

“I don’t know about today,” Mr McCarthy said when asked if a deal could be reached on Saturday. Still, Mr. McCarthy said he was “optimistic” about a deal and would brief his members on the full bill before briefing the press.

For days, top White House officials and Republican lawmakers have been nearing a deal that would raise the debt ceiling for two years while imposing strict caps on discretionary spending unrelated to the military or veterans for the same period.

Mr. Biden began negotiating with Mr. McCarthy this month after weeks of insisting that Congress raise the debt ceiling without strings attached. Democrats have accused Republicans of holding the economy hostage to their demands for deep spending cuts, while Republicans have raised concerns about the nation’s growing federal debt, which stands at $31.4 trillion.

It became clearer on Saturday that Mr. McCarthy would need Democrats to back the deal he is making with President Biden to pass the law, as lawmakers from the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus criticized the contours of the new deal.

“Full surrender is in progress. By the side that holds the cards” smoking Representative Dan Bishop, Republican of North Carolina and member of the caucus.

Most lawmakers not directly involved in the negotiations have gone home to their districts for the week-long Memorial Day break, but 35 members of the Freedom Caucus have tried to pressure Mr. McCarthy not to back down from Republican demands to limit federal expenses for 10 years. repeal additional money for the Internal Revenue Service, cut tax credits for clean energy and reclaim unused funds to fight Covid-19.

Mr. McCarthy said critics of the terms of the deal do not know the details, and Republican negotiators said they remained steadfast in their demand to impose tougher work requirements for social safety net programs as part of a deal.

“Not a chance. It’s not happening,” Rep. Garret Graves, Republican of Louisiana and one of the negotiators, told reporters Friday about the possibility of dropping the work requirement.

But that probably won’t be enough for members of the House Freedom Caucus.

“If work requirements become the centerpiece of a ‘deal,’ there should be no deal,” Rep. Chip Roy, Republican of Texas and a member of the caucus, wrote on Twitter. “Talk about toeing the wrong line.”

Mr. Bishop threatened legislative “war” on the deal if it amounts to little more than a “mere” increase in the debt ceiling that takes the issue off the table after the 2024 election.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said Friday that the United States will run out of money to pay the bills by June 5, giving a little more time than an earlier estimate, adding to the urgency for congressional leaders to reach an agreement on lifting or suspend the debt limit. A default would set in motion a cascade of potential problems for the US economy.

The Democrats have tried to ensure that the public will blame the Republicans if the country defaults.

“MAGA Republicans have manufactured a default crisis — and it’s veterans, seniors and working families who will pay the price,” Rep. Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, wrote on Twitter.

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