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Hopeful tone pervades debt ceiling talks ahead of long weekend

Lindsey McPherson, Paul M. Krawzak and Caitlin Reilly, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — Debt limit negotiations on Thursday morning had the feel of a deal starting to come together, with no in-person meetings scheduled but both sides working through various options in advance of the long holiday weekend.

Lawmakers made clear there were still significant differences between the White House and House GOP over spending levels and how long tight appropriations caps would be in place. But negotiators were working behind the scenes to try to bridge the gap and top Republicans sounded hopeful they could beat the June 1 deadline.

“We know where our differences lie. We worked well past midnight last night, we’re back at it today trying to get to the conclusion,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters Thursday. “We’ve already talked to the White House today, we’ll continue to work. They’re working on numbers, we’re working on numbers, and we’re working together.”

As McCarthy was leaving the Capitol shortly after 6 p.m. Eastern time, he said there was no deal yet but that he's staying in town to keep working into the weekend.

"We're worked throughout the day, and we'll continue to work to try and solve the problem, but there is no agreement," McCarthy said. Hours earlier, the House wrapped up votes for the week and members left for their districts and various Memorial Day weekend events.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the two sides' negotiating teams held a virtual meeting Thursday morning.


House Financial Services Chairman Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., one of McCarthy’s top proxies in the talks, has in his daily interactions with reporters tried to tamp down optimism that a deal was near. But on Thursday morning after emerging from a meeting in McCarthy’s office, he offered what passes for hopeful commentary.

“I’m not a pessimist at the moment,” McHenry said. “The work that we’re doing centers on a shorter and shorter range of issues.”

He repeatedly declined to give a timeline for a deal, however, and earlier in the day he was more pessimistic, saying reaching agreement by this weekend "looks very difficult."

The parties seemed to be coalescing around raising the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling to roughly $35 trillion, GOP lawmakers said, or enough to get past the 2024 elections and into the following year. That’s a much bigger raise than the $1.5 trillion House Republicans initially sought in their bill, which would put the next debt ceiling fight right in the middle of an election year.


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