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McCarthy praises debt limit negotiators, but GOP hardliners say talks should stop


(WASHINGTON) — As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy expressed his most positive view yet on debt ceiling talks, a group of hardline conservatives on Thursday urged Republicans to stop negotiating altogether.

McCarthy said that while no deal has been reached, they’re in a “much better place” than a week ago.

“We’re not there. We haven’t agreed to anything yet,” McCarthy said during an impromptu gaggle with reporters. “But I see the path that we could come to an agreement. I think we have a structure now.”

But undercutting McCarthy was The House Freedom Caucus, who said there should “be no further discussion” until the Senate passes the Limit, Save, Grow Act — which included substantial spending cuts in exchange for a one-year debt limit increase.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said the bill would be dead on arrival in the chamber.

“The House Freedom Caucus calls on Speaker McCarthy and Senate Republicans to use every leverage and tool at their disposal to ensure the Limit, Save, Grow Act is signed into law,” the group said in a statement.

The House Freedom Caucus, an influential group of GOP hardliners, gave McCarthy a hard time in his ascension to the speakership and forced him to agree to several concessions before handing him the gavel. Their opposition could be problematic down the road if a debt ceiling agreement is reached.

Lead negotiators were on Capitol Hill Thursday for a closed-door meeting on the debt ceiling.

Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president, have been working with Republican Rep. Garret Graves to find a compromise.

“They are exceptionally smart. They are tough … it’s very professional how this discussion is,” McCarthy said of Young and Ricchetti. He later added, “They are working night and day.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., described the conversations as “productive” as he left meeting room.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do. Nothing is close to being done,” McHenry said. “But we’re in the right discussions. The right things are being discussed. And we have the right people in the room to get this to the point where the principles can meet and have some agreement.”

In the Senate, Schumer also touted positive momentum as he gave members the greenlight to leave town for recess — but made it clear they would need to return within a 24-hour window to vote on a debt ceiling measure.

“The negotiations are currently making progress,” he said in floor remarks. “As Speaker McCarthy has said, he expects the House will vote next week if an agreement is reached, and the Senate would begin consideration after that.”

Still, some Democrats in his chamber are also urging an alternative debt ceiling fix.

A group of 11 senators led by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders have signed onto a letter urging Biden to prepare to invoke the 14th Amendment to lift the debt ceiling — an option Biden previously said would likely lead to lengthy litigation.

The lawmakers argue the Republican position is untenable, and that Biden shouldn’t have to negotiate with McCarthy in order to avoid default.

“Is this the perfect solution, is imposing the 14th amendment the perfect solution? No it is not,” Sanders said during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “But using the 14th amendment would allow the United States to continue to pay its bills on time and without delay, prevent an economic catastrophe, and prevent devastating cuts to some for the most vulnerable people in the country.”

Providing more details on a potential timeline, McCarthy said Thursday in order for Congress to avoid the possible June 1 “X-date,” a deal would need to be reached in principle by this weekend. After that, he predicted it would take up to 11 days — four in the House and seven in the Senate — to pass a bill and send it to Biden’s desk.

Biden, who is currently abroad meeting with G-7 leaders in Japan, is cutting his trip short to return Sunday for “final negotiations.”

Moments before he left for Asia on Wednesday, Biden said he was “confident” an unprecedented, likely economically catastrophic default.

“All the leaders have agreed we will not default,” he said. “Every leader has said that.”

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