Republicans Report Progress in Debt Limit Talks as Negotiations Continue
Republican congressional leaders said Thursday they were making progress toward a deal with President Biden to raise the debt ceiling while cutting spending, cautioning that an agreement that was still being hammered out would inevitably disappoint lawmakers in both parties.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol that bargainers had worked “well past midnight” and resumed negotiations later on Thursday morning, trying to find a resolution to avert a default on the nation’s debt before the projected June 1 deadline. He said that there were still “outstanding issues” and that he had directed his negotiators to work “24/7” until there was a deal.
“I don’t think everybody is going to be happy at the end of the day,” Mr. McCarthy said, nodding to mounting concerns among some hard-right Republicans that his party was making too many concessions in the talks. “That’s not how this system works.”
Democrats, too, were growing anxious that Mr. Biden would go too far in accepting Republican demands, including spending reductions and tougher work requirements on public benefit programs. They were huddling at noon in the Capitol to discuss the state of the negotiations.
Lawmakers were preparing to leave Washington later Thursday for the Memorial Day holiday, but talks were expected to continue into the weekend and members of Congress were on call to return and vote should a deal be reached.
Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, one of Mr. McCarthy’s key negotiators, said there were still “thorny issues” yet to be resolved, chief among them spending caps, an issue he acknowledged was “tough stuff” for Democrats to accept.
“We have legislative work to do, policy work to do,” Mr. McHenry said. “The details of all that stuff really are consequential to us being able to get this thing through.”
“We don’t have a deal yet, and so until we have a deal, I don’t think we’ll know exactly what the coalition will look like to get it passed,” said Representative Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, a top McCarthy ally. “But listen, Kevin McCarthy understands how conservative his conference is. He is going to deliver a deal that is going to be embraced by the vast majority of his conference.”
As negotiators inched closer to a deal, hard-right Republicans were openly expressing concern that Mr. McCarthy would sign off on a compromise they would view as insufficiently conservative. Several right-wing Republicans have already vowed to oppose any compromise that retreats from cuts that were part of their debt-limit bill, which would slash domestic spending by an average of 18 percent over a decade.
“Republicans should not cut a bad deal,” Representative Chip Roy of Texas, an influential conservative, wrote on Twitter, shortly after telling a local radio station that he was “going to have to go have some blunt conversations with my colleagues and the leadership team” because he didn’t like “the direction they are headed.”
Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina said he was reserving judgment on how he would vote on a compromise until he saw the bill, but added, “What I’ve seen now is not good.”
Former President Donald J. Trump, who has said that Republicans should force a default if they do not get what they want in the negotiations, also was weighing in. Mr. McCarthy told reporters he had spoken briefly with Mr. Trump about the negotiations — “it came up just for a second,” the speaker said. “He was talking about, ‘Make sure you get a good agreement.'”
After playing a tee shot on his golf course outside of Washington, Mr. Trump approached a reporter for The New York Times, iPhone in hand, and showed a call with Mr. McCarthy.
“It’s going to be an interesting thing — it’s not going to be that easy,” said Mr. Trump, who described his call with the speaker as “a little, quick talk.”
“They’ve spent three years wasting money on nonsense,” he added, saying, “Republicans don’t want to see that, so I understand where they’re at.”
Alan Blinder contributed reporting from Sterling, Va. Luke Broadwater, Stephanie Lai contributed reporting from Washington.