Republican says US debt-ceiling talks paused, White House says deal still possible

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Talks between U.S. House of Representatives Republicans and President Joe Biden’s administration about raising the debt ceiling paused on Friday, the lead Republican negotiator said while the White House said a deal remains possible.

The two sides have little time to agree on a deal to raise the federal government’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit or risk a catastrophic default. The Treasury Department has warned that the government could be unable to pay all its bills by June 1.

“We’re not there,” multiple U.S. media outlets quoted Representative Garret Graves, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s designated lead negotiator in talks, as saying. “We’ve decided to press pause because it’s just not productive.”

A White House official said a deal remained possible.

“If both sides negotiate in good faith and recognize they won’t get everything they want, a deal is still possible,” the official said.

Graves’ office could be reached for immediate comment.

Biden was in Japan attending a meeting of the Group of Seven wealthy nations. Republicans have criticized his decision to go forward with his trip at a sensitive time in the talks.

“@POTUS waited months before agreeing to negotiate with @SpeakerMcCarthy on a spending deal,” top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said on Twitter. “They are the only two who can reach an agreement. It is past time for the president to get serious. Time is of the essence.”

Republicans, who control the House by a 222-213 majority, for months had been insisting that Democrats agree to spending cuts in exchange for a deal to raise Congress’s self-imposed debt limit. The limit needs to be lifted regularly because the government spends more than it takes in taxes.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Katharine Jackson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone, Franklin Paul and David Gregorio)

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