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Debt limit talks stall as Republicans ‘press pause’

Republican Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana says gaps remain in the negotiations with the White House. Graves says it’s ‘just not productive’ to continue discussions at this point

Garret Graves
Rep. Garret Graves, a key legislator working on the debt ceiling bill for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, walks past the chamber at the Capitol in Washington, on April 26, 2023.J. Scott Applewhite (AP)

A top debt ceiling negotiator for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Friday it’s time to “press pause” on talks as negotiations with the White House came to an abrupt standstill at the Capitol. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Louisiana, tapped by McCarthy, R-California, to lead the talks, emerged from an hour-long session and said gaps remained between House Republicans and the Democratic administration.

“It’s time to press pause because it’s just not productive,” Graves told reporters. He added that the negotiations have become “just unreasonable” and that it was unclear when talks would resume.

Another Republican negotiator, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, said, “There is a “serious gap” between the sides. “We’re in a tough spot,” said McHenry, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as he left the meeting.

President Joe Biden’s administration is racing to strike a deal with Republicans led by McCarthy as the nation careens toward a potentially catastrophic debt default if the government fails to increase the borrowing limit to keep paying the nation’s bills.

White House negotiators declined to comment as they left the quick morning session.

Negotiators met for a third day behind closed doors at the Capitol with hopes of settling on an agreement this weekend before possible House votes next week. They face a looming deadline as soon as June 1 when the Treasury Department has said it will run out of cash to pay the government’s incurred debt.

Experts have warned that even the threat of a debt default would send shockwaves through the economy.

Republicans want to extract steep spending cuts that Biden has so far refused to accept. Any deal would need the support of both Republicans and Democrats to find approval in a divided Congress and be passed into law.

Biden who has been in Japan attending the Group of Seven summit had already planned to cut short the rest of his trip. He is expected to return to Washington later Sunday.

Biden departed early from a dinner with G7 leaders in Hiroshima on Friday night. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden planned to be briefed on the negotiations by his team Friday evening.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House to Graves’ comments.

As Republicans demand spending cuts and policy changes, Biden is facing increased pushback from Democrats, particularly progressives, not to give in to demands they argue will be harmful to Americans.

Democrats particularly refuse the Republican proposal to protect defense and veterans accounts from spending caps, arguing that the cuts will fall too heavily on other domestic programs.

Republicans also want to impose stricter work requirements on government aid recipients. Biden has suggested he might be open to considering it, but Democrats in Congress have said is a nonstarter.

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