These are the ‘productive’ talks in Washington on the debt ceiling

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said this week that he doesn’t think Republicans and Democrats have reached any agreement on raising the debt ceiling. President Biden rarely speaks in public. With the risk of default looming, Republicans came together to auction off a used tube of cherry lip balm and sold it for six figures.

Welcome to a recent week of “productive” negotiations in Washington, a town with a full vocabulary—cliffs, ceilings and X-dates—as its cyclical dance to a ticking financial time bomb. shorthand.

“There’s nothing like a deadline to force Washington’s hand,” said Eric Schultz, a former White House deputy press secretary under President Barack Obama.

Talks have started, stopped and started again in recent days as Mr. Biden, Mr. McCarthy and their negotiating teams worked to discuss a plan. So far, few specifics: “We all agree that we want to be able to make a deal,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters Monday after a White House meeting with the president.

Both appear intent on keeping their relationship from falling into scorched earth, though they remain far apart on the details of a deal before June 1, when the Treasury Department says the government may run out of money to pay its bills.

That was a week later — almost an eternity by the standards of the Washington legend.

Lest anyone think the lack of a breakthrough is a sign of intransigence or procrastination or typical government failure, both sides have insisted that everyone involved agree they want to agree. In a divided Washington, that’s progress.

McCarthy said the meeting with the president was “productive.” Not only that, but it’s “better than any other time we’ve discussed.”

Mr. Biden also used the word “productive” in his brief statement after the meeting. Nothing changed the next afternoon, as White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated: “The president had a really productive meeting with the speaker yesterday,” she affirmed.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, has shown little willingness to engage in productivity gains, speaking out in his home state of Kentucky: “Everyone needs to relax,” he told reporters.

“The last 10 times we’ve raised the debt ceiling, there were some strings attached,” he said, referring to the concessions or compromises that typically — but not always – agree. “It’s not uncommon. It’s almost entirely required when you divide the government.”

According to the White House, that’s not a very productive thing to do.

“What is extraordinary is that our economy and the American economy have been hijacked and tied in this way to the budget process,” Ms. Jean-Pierre commented from the podium in the briefing room.

These conversations may actually be productive compared to past president-speaker relations. (President Donald J. Trump has called Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “Third Class” Politicians At a meeting at the White House in 2019. The meeting was over quickly. )

But are they normal?

Kind of, according to William Howell, a professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

“It’s normal in the sense that it’s familiar, but it’s abnormal in the sense that it’s particularly healthy or consistent with how other countries meet their debt obligations,” he said.

Outside Washington, Americans have said they want Republicans and Democrats to make progress on other fronts. Tuesday, CNN published a poll That said, while a majority of Americans support raising the debt ceiling, only 31% think Mr. Biden’s priorities are correct, while 29% think Republicans do.

Leave that alone. Debt-ceiling productivity continued throughout Tuesday, even as die-hard right-wing members of the Republican Party, whom Mr. McCarthy had to appease to reach a deal, let it be known they were in no particular rush.

When a reporter from Semafor asked Rep. Matt Gates, R-Florida, about the talks, he replied that he and his conservative colleagues “felt we shouldn’t be negotiating with hostages.”

It was unclear whether Mr. Gates was talking about the president or the federal government.

Tuesday, political reporting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia bid $100,000 for a tube of Mr. McCarthy’s used lip balm at a Republican fundraising auction.

The high-priced acquisition drew outrage from Democratic lawmakers, who accused them of acting recklessly in the state’s default.

“Spend $100,000 on lip balm while working overtime to destroy programs that working families depend on. In short, a Republican priority,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-NY tweeted.

Biden allies say they believe real, tangible progress is possible when one of two things happens: financial markets start to pressure Republicans, as they did in 2011, or a holiday weekend advent.

“There’s nothing like the smell of jet smoke that fires up Congress as we approach the weekend,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama who spent time in an anguished White House. Debt Ceiling Negotiations in 2011 and 2013.

“So we’ll see what happens in a few days.”

Aishwarya Kawi Contribution report.

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