WASHINGTON − House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Republicans remain far apart with the White House on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and signaled his caucus won’t make any policy concessions to Democrats other than action to avoid a first-ever default.
“There are a number of places that we’re still far apart,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday. “I mean, it didn’t seem like it would be this hard.”
House Republican negotiators are set to meet with President Joe Biden’s negotiators Wednesday afternoon to try to reach an agreement on spending cuts sought by Republicans as a default looms as early as June 1 unless the debt ceiling is raised.
Republicans’ top two negotiators, Reps. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Garret Graves of Louisiana, said Tuesday “the debt ceiling” is what Republicans are offering to get Democratic support for a legislative package with sweeping spending cuts.
“I’m willing to make America stronger to curb inflation, less dependency on China and spend less than we spent the year,” McCarthy said when asked what concessions Republicans are willing to make. “It’s not my responsibility to represent the socialist wing of the Democratic Party.”
Talks between the White House and House Republicans have centered on Republicans’ proposals for stricter work requirements for recipients of food stamps and other welfare benefits, annual caps on future discretionary spending, expedited permitting for oil and gas projects, and rescinding COVID-19 relief money.
The White House has signaled an openness to most of these areas, but not to the extent that Republicans want.
Biden has pushed for raising revenue in addition to cuts totaling more than $1 trillion. But McCarthy has said he is unwilling to consider tax proposals that Biden supports targeting the wealthiest Americans and corporations. The White House wants to roll back tax cuts passed in 2017 during the Trump presidency.
“I think we can make progress. I’m hoping we can make progress,” McCarthy said. “I am not going to give up.”
Biden and McCarthy met Monday at the White House in what both men described was a “productive” meeting.
Any deal reached by the White House and McCarthy faces a complicated path to passage. Several hardline conservative Republicans in the House have signaled they won’t vote for a negotiated deal on the debt ceiling regardless of the details.
Because of the potential Republicans detractors, the White House believes more than 100 House Democrats might be needed to pass any debt-ceiling ceiling bill supported by Biden and McCarthy, according to a source familiar with talks.
Throughout the months-long impasse, the White House has accused Republicans of “holding the country hostage” over its fiduciary responsibility to pay its bills.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., embraced the term in comments Tuesday to the online publication Semafor.
“I think my conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow,” Gaetz said, referring to the name of the Republican-backed bill to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for $4.8 trillion in cuts. “And they don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: McCarthy: ‘Still far apart’ on debt ceiling deal as default looms