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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

“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.

‘Idiotic’ and ‘un-American’

Members of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus on Thursday were already up in arms over that prospect, arguing that what they’ve heard so far signals McCarthy and his team haven’t extracted enough concessions from President Joe Biden.

“We’ve got to take the credit card away from the government, and it’s idiotic for him — for anybody — to consider anything (other) than what we had” in the House-passed bill, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said. “To raise the debt ceiling without tremendous concessions is un-American and it shouldn’t happen.”


Likely gone from the final package are provisions blocking Biden’s student loan relief plan and repealing clean energy tax credits from last year’s budget reconciliation law, according to Texas Rep. Chip Roy, another Freedom Caucus member.

There seemed to be common ground brewing on the rescission of unspent pandemic aid and work requirements for some federal safety-net programs, but scaled down from work provisions House Republicans sought initially that would affect Medicaid as well as food stamps.

“If it’s true that we’re talking about another two, two and a half trillion dollars in debt increase, and if it’s true that we’re going to remove three, four, five, six of the things that we had in the (House-passed bill), someone explain to me why that’s an off-ramp that should be taken now,” Roy said. “I think it’s an exit ramp about five exits too early.”

McCarthy dismissed the criticism from his party’s right flank: “I just think they need to be updated” on the negotiations, he said.


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