With a little more than a week until a federal default, Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday repeated his call on President Biden and congressional Democrats to accept spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling and allowing the Treasury to avoid defaulting on payments.
“You have to spend less than you did last year,” Mr. McCarthy said at a news conference at the Capitol as Biden administration and Republican negotiators gathered at the White House. “It’s not hard to do. But in Washington, somehow it’s a problem.”
The government has tried to hold out against the cuts, pushing instead to freeze current spending levels, but Mr McCarthy has made cutting domestic programs a central demand in the negotiations. As Republicans stand firm against cuts to defense or veterans programs, the brunt of the cuts will affect Democratic-backed social programs.
Despite a series of routine meetings, negotiators reported little progress on the substance of any agreement. Still, Mr McCarthy continued to express hope that a deal could be reached before the June 1 deadline.
“I think we can make progress today,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “I hope we can do that.”
Right-wing Republicans have vowed to oppose any compromise that would drop cuts as part of their debt limit bill, which was approved along party lines last month, so Mr McCarthy will likely need a large number of Democratic votes to pass a deal. But congressional Democrats oppose overall budget cuts.
The House is set to begin its week-long Memorial Day recess on Friday, and Mr McCarthy will need to decide whether to keep lawmakers in Washington or send them home and recall them if a deal can be reached. He has vowed to give lawmakers 72 hours to review any plans, meaning consideration of any deal appears to be delayed until next week.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen repeated warning The government has until June 1 to exhaust its capacity to meet all obligations.