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, the California Republican, left the Capitol on Thursday evening telling reporters that there was still no deal and that he and his negotiators planned to work over the weekend to find a resolution.
“We’ve been talking to the White House all day, we’ve been going back and forth, and it’s not easy,” Mr. McCarthy said. “It takes a while to make it happen, and we are working hard to make it happen.”
Earlier he had alluded to mounting concerns among some hard-right Republicans that their party was making too many concessions in the talks, saying, “I don’t think everybody is going to be happy at the end of the day.”
Democrats, too, were growing anxious that Mr. Biden would go too far in acceding to Republican demands, including spending reductions and tougher work requirements on public benefit programs. They huddled at the Capitol to discuss the state of the negotiations, as Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, prepared for the task of corralling Democrats to vote for a deal that many of them will probably dislike.
At the White House, Mr. Biden sought to reassure the markets and the public, noting that he and congressional leaders had agreed “there will be no default.” But he also took a jab at House Republicans, saying of the debt ceiling bill they passed last month, which would cut spending substantially in exchange for raising the borrowing limit: “I won’t agree to that.”
“Speaker McCarthy and I have a very different view of who should bear the burden of additional efforts to get our fiscal house in order,” Mr. Biden said. “I don’t believe the whole burden should fall on the backs of middle-class and working-class Americans.”
Lawmakers were making their way out of Washington for the Memorial Day holiday, but 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 did not 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.”
Jim Tankersley, Luke Broadwater and Stephanie Lai contributed reporting from Washington, and Alan Blinder from Sterling, Va.