House lawmakers are leaving Washington for the long holiday weekend on Thursday — just one week before the Treasury Department says the U.S. is at risk of a debt default — without a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
Negotiators say they’re getting closer to striking a deal to avert a default next week, but an agreement didn’t appear imminent on Thursday.
“Still working through thorny issues, but there’s goodwill on all sides,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a key ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and negotiator in spending talks with the White House, told The Hill on Thursday.
“It’s just tougher issues that remain,” he added.
At the same time, Democrats have been piling the criticism onto House GOP leaders for greenlighting the scheduled recess, despite the looming fiscal deadline.
“It’s just the weirdest thing to be going home in the middle of an impending disaster,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) told The Hill on Thursday.
House GOP leaders said Wednesday that members could leave as scheduled on Thursday but should be prepared to return to the Capitol to vote on legislation to raise the debt limit with 24 hours notice.
Tensions are beginning to reach a fever pitch on both sides as liberals and conservatives alike fret about what concessions a final agreement will contain.
While Democratic leaders face increased calls from their members to reject GOP-backed spending cuts, hardline conservatives have pressed their leadership to hold the line in talks in effort to achieve significant reforms.
The bill passed by House Republicans last month would raise the debt limit through next March, at the latest, in exchange for capping government funding for fiscal year 2024 at 2022 levels and limiting spending grown to 1 percent each year for a decade, along with a host of other conservative priorities.
Both sides have indicated, however, that a final bipartisan agreement will likely be much narrower in scope as leaders focus on areas like changes to work requirements for social safety net programs, coronavirus funding and spending caps.
McCarthy has expressed confidence that the final deal would be able to notch significant support within his conference, and the party is largely unified behind the leader’s strategy in talks.
But there are concerns from some conservatives about what the final deal will look like.
In comments to reporters on Thursday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) applauded the Speaker and GOP negotiators for their work leading talks for the Republican side over the past few weeks. But he also cautioned against the party taking an “exit ramp 5 exits too early.”
A group of 35 House Freedom Caucus members and allies, meanwhile, released a letter on Thursday calling for McCarthy to push for additional conservative priorities, demanding to see how Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen determined a default could come on June 1, and suggesting passing COVID-19 funding clawbacks and repealing an IRS funding boost as a way to push back the X-date.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are also locking arms behind President Biden amid negotiations. However, there are questions about how much Democratic support the debt limit deal will be able to muster, as liberals come out in strong opposition to tougher work requirements for federal assistance programs and reduced nondefense funding.
“I think the president has been trying to talk to them, but time is running out,” Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said this week.
“He won the White House because of a diverse vibrant coalition across the country and particularly in key states,” Jayapal said. “What we’ve said to the White House is to understand that we need to make sure that our vibrant, diverse coalition, represented by so many of the members in the Progressive Caucus, continue to be enthusiastic.”
Heading into the recess, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) accused Republicans of threatening to tank the economy because they think it might hurt Biden and the Democrats politically.
Democrats “are unified in working to avoid a dangerous default, which is what extreme MAGA Republicans are clearly determined to bring about, because they have concluded that if they crash the economy it will benefit them politically,” Jeffries said.
“That’s a sick way of thinking.”
Mychael Schnell, Mike Lillis and Hanna Trudo contributed.
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