Negotiators ‘closer to an agreement’ on US debt crisis, but no deal in sight

WASHINGTON: US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Saturday that Republican negotiators were “closer to an agreement” that would resolve the looming debt crisis, but had not reached a deal with President Joe Biden.
He said there was no firm timeline for a final compromise that would raise the nation’s borrowing limit and avoid a catastrophic default while also making spending cuts that House Republicans are demanding. House negotiators left the Capitol after 2 am and returned hours later.
“We’ll get it when it gets right,” McCarthy said as he arrived on Capitol Hill. McCarthy’s comments echoed the latest assessment from Biden, who said Friday evening that bargainers were “very close.”
Their optimism came as treasury secretary Janet Yellen told Congress that the United States could default on its debt obligations by June 5 – four days later than previously estimated – if lawmakers do not act in time to raise the federal debt ceiling. The extended “X-date” gives the two sides a bit of extra time as they scramble for a deal.
Both sides have suggested one of the main holdups is a GOP effort to expand existing work requirements for recipients of food stamps and other federal aid programs, a longtime Republican goal that Democrats have strenuously opposed. The White House said the Republican proposals were “cruel and senseless.”
McCarthy declined to elaborate on those discussions. One of his negotiators, Louisiana representative Garret Graves, said that there was “not a chance” that Republicans might relent on the issue. Biden, however, was upbeat as he departed for Camp David on Friday evening, saying: “It’s very close, and I’m optimistic.”
Americans and the world were uneasily watching the negotiating brinkmanship that could throw the American economy into chaos and sap world confidence in the nation’s leadership.
Failure to lift the borrowing limit, now $31 trillion, to pay the nation’s incurred bills, would send shockwaves through the US and global economy. Yellen said failure to act by the new date would “cause severe hardship to American families, harm our global leadership position and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests.” Anxious retirees and others were already making contingency plans for missed checks, with the next Social Security payments due next week.
Biden and McCarthy have seemed to be narrowing on a two-year budget-cutting deal that would also extend the debt limit into 2025 past the next presidential election. The contours of the deal have been taking shape to cut spending for 2024 and impose a 1% cap on spending growth for 2025.
Lawmakers are not expected to return to work from the Memorial Day weekend before Tuesday, at the earliest, and McCarthy has promised lawmakers he will abide by the rule to post any bill for 72 hours before voting. The Democratic-held Senate has stayed out of the negotiations, leaving the talks to Biden and McCarthy. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York has pledged to move quickly to send a compromise package to Biden’s desk.ap

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