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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.”

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., said leaving McCarthy’s office just before 7:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday night that progress was “slow,” specifically calling out the White House for refusing to negotiate on work requirements for federal safety-net programs.

“You’re actually prioritizing paying people taxpayer funds to not work, and you’re putting at risk ... funds for Medicare and Social Security for seniors,” he said. “I mean, this is just a crazy calculation at this point.”

Graves, one of McCarthy’s top deputies in the talks, said negotiations would continue but there remain significant differences.


“We have a lot of hangups, but (work requirements) is one of the big issues we’re dealing with,” he said.

As McCarthy was leaving the Capitol shortly after 6 p.m., 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.

House Financial Services Chairman Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., another 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.


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