Washington — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck an optimistic tone Thursday about reaching a deal with President Biden to raise the debt ceiling in time to avoid a default that would rock global financial markets.
“We’re not there,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “But I see the path that we can come to an agreement, and I think we have a structure now.”
McCarthy, who met with the president and other congressional leaders earlier this week, said talks are in “a much better place” than they were a week ago. Both sides have named chief negotiators to continue discussions and hammer out a deal.
“I know and I can see where a deal can come together, and I think that’s important,” he said.
Republicans have pushed for spending cuts in exchange for raising or suspending the debt limit. Among their demands are additional work requirements for able-bodied adults who apply for entitlement benefits. They also want to claw back funds appropriated for COVID-19 relief that have not been spent.
Democrats want a debt ceiling increase without conditions. Mr. Biden has also said he would reject work requirements that negatively affect Americans’ health needs and the White House has rejected drastic spending cuts included in a Republican bill that has already passed the House.
McCarthy told reporters it would be ideal to have an agreement in principle this week so that a bill can be brought to the House floor next week. He said he thinks it could take 11 days to move the bill through the House and Senate. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the government may be unable to pay its bills as soon as June 1.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that negotiators are “making progress” and told members they should be available to return to Washington within 24 hours’ notice to vote on a bill. The Senate will be in recess from Friday through Memorial Day.
Mr. Biden has cut his trip abroad short to return to the U.S. early amid the debt talks. He was scheduled to travel to Australia and Papua New Guinea after he leaves Japan.
Before leaving for Japan, Mr. Biden said he was “confident” the U.S. “will not default” on its debt.
Rebecca Kaplan, John Nolen and Kathryn Watson contributed reporting.
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