Debt Limits: Significant differences remain on spending cuts and other key issues as debt limit deadline looms


Negotiations are continuing to try to Reach a debt limit agreementbut key differences between House Republicans and the White House have yet to be bridged, and the pressure will only mount as the risk of a default grows become more and more real every day.

Republicans have long said the spending cuts must be combined with raising the debt ceiling – an issue that proved to be at the heart of the sticking point as Democrats argued the cuts Republicans wanted were too extreme, although the White House has signaled a willingness to cut some spending.

Asked whether there was any general agreement on the cuts, Republican Rep. Garrett Graves, who served as the lead negotiator during the talks, said Tuesday, “No, that’s our biggest gap.”

Graves made it clear that while the time to avoid a default is getting shorter, there are still plenty of significant differences.

“Look, there are some big bright red lines on both sides,” he said. “We’re not addressing any of those issues.”

On Tuesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told Republicans in a closed-door meeting that “we’re nowhere near a deal,” underscoring how far apart the two sides are, according to a source in the room.

The window for a deal is closing fast and the stakes are so high that the Treasury Department continues to say the US could default by June 1. A first U.S. default could trigger global economic disaster.

McCarthy met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Monday, a meeting that both the speaker and the president described as “productive,” but it did not result in a breakthrough or agreement in the talks.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats continue to oppose the positions Republicans have indicated in the negotiations, expressing heightened concern about the ticking clock.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar argued that Republicans are being driven into extreme positions by far-right members of the GOP conference.

“It’s tough, this is not where we should be. Speaker McCarthy is captured by the Freedom Caucus,” Aguilar told reporters Tuesday.

“We worry that Republicans are not only moving the goalposts, but continuing to insist on the most extreme elements of their proposal,” he said.

McCarthy, while saying the two sides are still far apart, said Tuesday he thought it was possible to get everything done by the June 1 deadline. “We still have until June 1 to get this done,” he told reporters.

But in a sign that there may not be much wiggle room in the negotiations, McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju, “We’re going to raise the debt ceiling” when asked what concessions he would make – a key remark for the GOP. People are not willing to do anything other than raise the debt ceiling in exchange for their demands.

When Raju pressed the spokesman on whether that was his only concession, McCarthy said: “Everything we’re going to do is make America stronger.”

McCarthy said on Tuesday that raising the debt ceiling was the only concession he would make, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations, angering the White House, which a day earlier considered the talks productive.

A Democratic official slammed McCarthy for his comments, accusing him of refusing to compromise and expressing gratitude to the most conservative members of the caucus as talks stalled.

The official slammed McCarthy’s demands for more defense spending while reducing nondefense spending as extreme and inconsistent with the budget deals of the past decade.

Another big challenge for negotiators is that even if a deal is reached, the road to preventing default is far from over.

Legislative text needs to be written, which can be a difficult and complex endeavor as lawmakers and staff delve into specific policy details—part of the process of eventually passing any bill, which often leads to further questions and Last minute hangup about disagreement about the fine print.

Leaders of both parties will then need to vie for votes to pass a bill, no small task for slim majorities in both chambers. After that, a deal will need to be struck, a process that could take several days in both chambers, although there are mechanisms the leadership could use to speed things up.

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