McCarthy: A debt deal could still pass by June 1

Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Monday he remains confident that Congress could still beat a possible June 1 default deadline despite the weekend stall in talks with the White House.

While McCarthy said he would’ve preferred a deal by Sunday night, he declared the U.S. could still avoid an economically destructive debt default by June 1 if House negotiators can strike — and pass — a deal this week.

“We should’ve gotten it done by the weekend. It does make it more difficult but I think we can still make that all happen,” McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol, hours before his scheduled Monday meeting with President Joe Biden.

The two last met in person on May 16, before Biden’s trip to the G-7 summit in Japan.

“We could get a deal tonight, we could get a deal tomorrow” or sometime this week, McCarthy added, and it would be “still possible” to avert potential doomsday on June 1.

The timing would still be tight. House GOP leaders have promised their members 72 hours to read any debt measure, and House Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said he expected the party to abide by the rule. That would likely mean House lawmakers would need to see a text by late Wednesday in order to vote Friday.

And while McCarthy has signaled the House could postpone its weeklong Memorial Day recess — which is slated to begin Friday — lawmakers in both parties will be eager to hit the exits on time. The Senate, while currently on recess, is set to return when it’s time to vote.

“Everyone knows the deadlines. We have the physical process of actually writing it. The mechanical piece is real. We have to be cognizant of the reality of moving paper and ensuring that is accurate and context. Everyone is awake to that,” McHenry said.

Both McCarthy and McHenry spoke to reporters Monday afternoon, shortly after the second meeting in two days between GOP negotiators and White House officials.

McHenry and Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), the speaker’s emissaries in the talks, have said little publicly about what progress has been made in the last 24 hours. The Democratic negotiators — close Biden adviser Steve Ricchetti, White House budget chief Shalanda Young and congressional liaison Louisa Terrell — have also remained mum.

Several Democrats, though, have privately described the talks as taking a turn for the worse over the weekend.

One White House official said Monday that McCarthy’s negotiators took an increasingly hard line in talks at the end of last week and into the weekend, including an insistence on new restrictions for the federal nutrition assistance program known as SNAP that hadn’t been included in the GOP’s House-passed bill.

And the White House spent the first half of the day blasting out a series of articles highlighting the disastrous impact a default would have on small businesses, veterans and major health programs.

As of Monday, however, McCarthy characterized the talks as “professional” and “productive” — even as he acknowledged the wide gaps that still exist. Republicans have demanded steep cuts to domestic spending, as well as new requirements like work requirements for social programs, which the speaker said remained a priority.

“Nothing’s agreed to,” McCarthy said, adding: “The discussions today are understanding both sides.”

Adam Cancryn and Jordain Carney contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this report misspelled Rep. Garret Graves’ name.The speaker addressed reporters hours ahead of his latest sitdown with President Joe Biden, as multiple elements of their talks remain up in the air.  

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