There’s a lot of wishful thinking spreading across Capitol Hill that Friday could see a long-elusive bipartisan debt ceiling deal, with the default deadline just six days away. GOP negotiators didn’t seem overly optimistic Thursday night.
A gloomy and exhausted president, Kevin McCarthy, offered this to reporters outside his office Thursday night: “We don’t have a deal yet. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. It’s hard, but we’re working and we’ll keep working until we get there. »
A major sticking point, according to another Republican negotiator, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), continues to tighten work requirements for some backstop programs.
“The White House continues to prioritize paying people who are not working over paying Social Security and Medicare benefits,” Graves said. “Their efforts jeopardize those same benefits for seniors like Medicare and Social Security because they refuse to negotiate on work requirements.”
Still, there are significant positive signs that House Republicans and the White House are making real progress. The two sides have all but finalized the spending part of the talks, a source familiar with the talks told POLITICO Thursday night. And as one Republican negotiator recently said, once those caps are locked in, the rest of the deal should fall into place fairly quickly.
Negotiators also appear to have reached agreements on the following areas, based on a leaked list that a Republican familiar with the matter said came from the leadership:
An agreement to lift the debt ceiling until 2024
A procedure prompts Congress to pass the 12 annual spending bills;
A plan to recover unspent Covid money;
And two years of spending caps that freeze non-defense spending somewhere below fiscal year 2023 levels, while defense spending will get a slight increase.
Still, passing real legislation could take some time. Hill’s staff will have to turn any deal into law, and then, once a bill is introduced, House GOP leaders have pledged to wait 72 hours before any votes — part of the deal McCarthy has reached with the Conservatives to win the President’s gavel.
In this scenario, negotiators will need to strike a deal on Friday or Saturday to get a bill through the House before the earliest possible default date on Thursday.
And then there is the Senate. No one expects the House to pass the bill by unanimous consent – especially after Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has pledged to slow down the process — meaning the upper house could take up to three days to pass the legislation before it goes to President Joe Biden’s office. If June 1 is the actual default date, which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is likely to give more advice on next week, that could be a huge problem.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said Thursday he hoped all Democrats could support any legislation that comes out of the negotiations, but he wasn’t sure.
“It depends on what’s in there. It’s rare that we get absolutely every vote on absolutely everything. But this one should be the one you trust our president,” he said.
Jordan Carney contributed to this report.