Speaker McCarthy and House GOP reportedly close to an agreement on debt limit with Biden White House

May 25, 2023
Ben Marquis

House Republicans led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have been negotiating with President Joe Biden's White House on a possible bipartisan agreement to lift the nation's debt limit before a supposed default date of June 1.

On Wednesday, Speaker McCarthy indicated to reporters that he believed a debt limit deal was nearly within reach, with just a few details remaining to be haggled over, Breitbart reported.

He also appeared to chide reporters for having "underestimated" him and the unity of Republicans regarding actually reaching an agreement that a bipartisan majority of the House could vote in support of.

McCarthy optimistic over prospects for agreement

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, Speaker McCarthy said his staff intended "to try to finish up the negotiations" with the White House on a debt limit deal within the next day or so but cautioned that "there’s several places that we are still far apart."

House Republicans passed a bill in April to raise the debt limit but made it contingent upon steep spending cuts and rollbacks of some of President Biden's initiatives in addition to various other reforms that Democrats reflexively balked at and initially refused to even discuss -- though now are negotiating over all of that and more as the default deadline approaches.

To be sure, any potential compromise with the White House will likely be rejected by some Republicans, but when asked about the prospects of keeping the House GOP unified in such a development, McCarthy pointed to prior wins and said, "You underestimated me the whole time. The one thing you should learn from me, I will never give up for the American people. … Can we get to ‘yes?’ Yes. We passed a bill."

Sources say debt limit deal is within reach

Fox Business reported Thursday morning that an unnamed source familiar with the status of the ongoing negotiations said that a deal was within reach, potentially as soon as Friday, and that lawmakers who had left town for the Memorial Day weekend and congressional recess for the following week were on notice that they could be called back to the Capitol at any time for a necessary vote.

Another unnamed senior House GOP source told the outlet of the possible agreement, "We still have some things to resolve. We have to see if it’s final, final."

It was further noted that Speaker McCarthy had expressed optimism with regard to the negotiations on Wednesday and had told reporters that he had instructed his people to "work 24/7 to try to solve this problem."

Reuters also reported on Thursday that a debt limit deal was close at hand but that the two sides were still sparring over the details of about $70 billion worth of an estimated $1 trillion agreement.

"We knew this would not be easy," McCarthy told reporters Thursday evening and added with regard to the prospect of some members revolting over the terms of a compromise, "I don't think everybody's going to be happy at the end of the day. That's not how the system works."

Whipping votes and keeping the caucuses in line

Politico reported Thursday that a leaked memo rumored to contain details of a possible deal was circulating among House Republicans -- causing consternation among some hardliners -- that would lift the debt limit through 2024, impose caps on all spending bills, claw back unspent COVID relief funds, and possibly even include strengthened work requirements for able-bodied welfare recipients.

Earlier that same day, Axios reported that House Democrats were equally dreading a potential deal as much as default, as they understood they would likely have to accept at least some substantial concessions demanded by Republicans, with one unnamed Democratic lawmaker saying, "While Democrats know they will have to eat a turd sandwich, the Republicans will have to put some Nutella spread on it first."

As for the possibility that some conservative House Republicans might refuse to accept a compromise agreement, Politico reported separately on Wednesday that the White House estimated that they may have to convince anywhere from 50-100 centrist and moderate Democrats to vote for a deal they may not like, if only to avoid default and not leave the president standing alone after negotiating an agreement.

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