Debt talk impasse forces a reality check for GOP, Dems on Capitol Hill

House Democrats are struggling with a White House proposal to freeze spending levels, while GOP lawmakers call for steeper cuts to raise the debt limit.

A brief impasse between House GOP and White House negotiators over how to raise the nation’s debt limit has emerged as a gut check over the realities of any deal.

Currently, Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R–Bakersfield) firm stance on cutting spending in 2024 has managed to bring the White House closer to the middle, alarming progressive lawmakers on Capitol Hill.


Driving the news: McCarthy and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D–N.Y.) have both indicated that their members should prepare for a compromise that sacrifices some party priorities.

Jeffries has expressed a willingness to consider a White House offer to freeze spending at current levels, which is drawing criticism from liberals.

However, even with Democratic support, any deal that McCarthy makes will have to win support from a large majority of the House Republicans, which is unlikely for a freeze alone.

Some House Republicans are pushing for a bill that pairs a $1.5 trillion debt ceiling increase with around $4.8 trillion in deficit reductions over a decade, designed to get President Biden to the negotiating table.

However, they are also urging McCarthy to “use every leverage and tool at their disposal” to force the Senate to vote on the proposal or offer a countermeasure.

McCarthy has laid out only a few red lines for a compromise: no tax increases, cut discretionary spending below current levels, and no clean debt ceiling increase.

The other side: Democratic leaders are also feeling pressure from their left flank, as progressives reject negotiations with Republicans over the debt limit.

Rep. Ilhan Omar said she could not in “good faith understand how that is a reasonable offer at the moment” regarding the White House proposal to freeze spending.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro expressed concerns about proposed spending cuts, saying, “Don’t talk about spending in the abstract. Headstart, 200,000 kids, no slots. 100,000 kids without child care.” However, DeLauro did not rule out spending cuts entirely, as many members on both sides have refrained from drawing red lines in debt limit negotiations.

What they’re saying: “Did you ever think at the end of the day that when you get into a negotiation with both sides that only one side is gonna carry everything? No, no one thinks that,” McCarthy said during a press conference on Monday.

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