Negotiators are set to return to the Capitol on Saturday morning to continue talks over the debt ceiling, with officials indicating they are close to finalizing a deal just over a week before the country is expected to default on its loans.
Negotiators left the Capitol late Friday night without a final agreement, but President Joe Biden expressed confidence that lawmakers were “very close” to a deal even as the White House continues to wrestle with House Republicans over certain provisions. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), one of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s top negotiators, agreed that they were close to a deal but emphasized there are still outstanding issues that remain before legislation can be drafted.
White House negotiators have been working with Republicans for weeks to iron out a deal as both parties have dug in their heels and refuse to budge on their top priorities. However, it appears that officials are close to a final proposal and aiming to release a proposal as early as Saturday afternoon.
Here’s where things stand as negotiators work to complete a deal ahead of the June 5 deadline:
Permitting reforms out, but Republicans dig in on work requirements
Leaked details of the proposed debt limit agreement show negotiators working to satisfy Democratic demands to raise the debt ceiling while also meeting the GOP’s desire to cut discretionary spending and implement spending cuts.
As of Friday evening, negotiators reportedly agreed to nix permitting reforms for energy programs, which could anger some rank-and-file Republicans whose support will be crucial to get a deal through the House. Republican negotiators remain in a standoff with the White House over work requirements, which has been a main source of disagreement since talks began.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a top negotiator for McCarthy, told reporters on Saturday morning that officials are still working through “a narrow set” of final issues that “has to be dealt with,” noting it’s unclear when a final deal could be made.
“It’s hours or days, I don’t know when,” he said. “We’ve had a long list for a long time. What I didn’t anticipate is we’d have a very short list for a very long time.”
Treasury updates X-Date to June 5
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen updated lawmakers on Friday that June 5 is the new predicted “X-Date” for when the country could become unable to make debt payments, giving negotiators four more days than initially anticipated to pass a deal.
The new date comes as Republicans have publicly questioned Yellen’s predictions, accusing the Biden administration official of manufacturing a timeline to accelerate a deal. However, McCarthy has remained adamant that he and his team are treating Yellen’s timeline as an official deadline.
“I think this clarifies that our timeline is very tight,” McHenry said. “The updated X-Date is a strong indication that June 5 is the day.”
Sticking points remain
Despite the “great progress” touted by McCarthy this week, there remain a few sticking points that have prevented negotiators from shaking hands on a final deal.
Among these holdout issues are work requirements, which the White House has indicated is a nonstarter in talks despite Republicans insisting they won’t make a deal unless it is included. When asked by reporters on Friday whether Republicans would cut work requirements to come to an agreement, Graves said: “Hell no.”
“Not a chance,” he said.
The work requirements House Republicans are trying to put in the debt ceiling bill would apply only to able-bodied adults with no dependents and is a non-starter in any compromise with the White House to raise the debt limit.
Rank-and-file lawmakers unhappy with details
Getting a deal finalized is only the first step in the legislative battle, as party leaders will then need to go back to their rank-and-file to sell the agreement as a winning arrangement.
Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already expressed their opposition to the debt ceiling deal even before the details have been finalized, with some threatening to vote against the measure if it doesn’t meet their demands.
Republican negotiators are getting an early start to sell the deal to their caucus, with GOP leaders holding a whip call on Friday night to discuss strategies on how they’ll get members on board in order to push the legislation through the House.
What comes next?
Negotiators are hoping to finalize a deal and get legislative text released as soon as possible, after which the bill must be available for review for at least 72 hours before being considered for a vote under House rules. Once the text is posted, the clock will begin counting down, meaning a vote could conceivably take place as early as Tuesday evening if a deal is made on Saturday.
After that, the legislation will be passed to the Senate, where it could take a few days before it’s passed and sent to Biden’s desk for his signature.
The last-minute time crunch comes as the House broke for recess on Thursday afternoon for the holiday weekend, with some Democrats grumbling that lawmakers should stay in Washington until a deal is made. McCarthy said he would remain in Washington for the weekend to continue working on a deal.