Leaders in the Republican Congress on Thursday said they were making progress toward an agreement with President Biden to raise the debt ceiling while cutting spending, warning that a deal that has yet to be worked out will inevitably require lawmakers from both parties would disappoint.
Spokesman Kevin McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol that negotiators had been working “well past midnight” and resumed negotiations later Thursday morning to find a solution to avert a default by the country before the scheduled June 1 deadline. He said there were “unresolved issues” and he had instructed his negotiators to work “around the clock” until an agreement was reached.
“I don’t think everyone will be happy in the end,” McCarthy said, nodding to growing concerns among some far-right Republicans that their party made too many concessions in the talks. “That’s not how this system works.”
Democrats, too, grew concerned that Mr. Biden would go too far if he accepted Republican demands, including spending cuts and stricter labor requirements for public welfare programs. They sat together in the Capitol at noon to discuss the status of the negotiations.
Lawmakers were preparing to leave Washington later Thursday for the Memorial Day holiday, but talks were expected to continue through the weekend and congressmen were on call to return and vote should an agreement be reached.
Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, one of Mr. McCarthy’s key negotiators, said there were still “thorny issues” that needed to be resolved, most notably spending ceilings, an issue he acknowledged was important for the Democrats “difficult to accept”.
“We have legislative and political work ahead of us,” McHenry said. “The details of all of these things are really important in helping us get this thing through.”
“We don’t have an agreement yet, and until we have an agreement, I don’t think we’ll know exactly what the coalition is going to look like to see it through,” said South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson, a top McCarthy ally . “But listen, Kevin McCarthy understands how conservative his conference is. He will present a deal that will be accepted by the vast majority of his conference attendees.”
As negotiators drew closer to an agreement, far-right Republicans openly expressed concern that Mr. McCarthy would sign a compromise they felt was not sufficiently conservative. Several right-wing Republicans have already vowed to oppose any compromise that deviates from cuts under their Debt Limit Act that would cut domestic spending by an average of 18 percent over a decade.
“Republicans shouldn’t get a bad deal,” Texas Rep. Chip Roy, an influential conservative, wrote on Twitter shortly after telling a local radio station that he needed to “have some frank conversations with my colleagues and the leadership.” team” because he didn’t like “the direction they’re going.”
South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman said he was reserving judgment on how he would vote on a compromise until he saw the bill, but added, “What I’ve seen now is not good.”
Former President Donald J. Trump also commented that Republicans should force a default if they don’t get what they want in the negotiations. Mr McCarthy told reporters he spoke briefly with Mr Trump about the negotiations – “It only came up for a second,” the spokesman said. “He was like, ‘Make sure you get a good agreement.'”
After teeing off at his golf course outside of Washington, Mr Trump, iPhone in hand, approached a New York Times reporter and showed him a conversation with Mr McCarthy.
“It’s going to be an interesting thing — it’s not going to be that easy,” said Trump, who described his conversation with the speaker as “a little quick conversation.”
“They spent three years wasting money on nonsense,” he added, saying, “Republicans don’t want to see that, so I see where they stand.”
Luke Broadwater and Stephanie Lai reported from Washington and Alan Blinder from Sterling, Virginia.