Republicans walk out of talks over raising US debt ceiling

Republican negotiators on Friday walked out of debt ceiling talks with the White House, raising questions over whether lawmakers will be able to strike a deal and avert a default before a looming June 1 deadline.

Garret Graves, the Republican congressman from Louisiana who has emerged as the point person for Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, left the meeting room on Capitol Hill where talks were taking place on Friday morning, telling reporters negotiators would “press pause”.

“Until people are willing to have reasonable conversations about how you can actually move forward and do the right thing, then we are not going to sit here and talk to ourselves,” Graves said.

The White House said: “There are real differences between the parties on budget issues and talks will be difficult. The president’s team is working hard towards a reasonable bipartisan solution.”

The harsh words from Graves came just a day after McCarthy suggested a deal to raise the debt ceiling could be put to a vote in the House of Representatives as soon as next week. Any debt ceiling deal would need to pass the House, which is controlled by Republicans, and the Senate, which is held by Democrats, before being signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Lawmakers have been scrambling to strike a deal ahead of a June 1, which has been identified by Treasury secretary Janet Yellen as the so-called x-date when the government risks running out of cash and defaulting on its obligations.

“We’re not there, we haven’t agreed to anything yet. But I see the path that we can come to an agreement,” McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, in remarks that bolstered markets and sent the blue-chip S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite to their highest levels since August.

But members of McCarthy’s own party poured cold water on his optimism later on Thursday, when they suggested they would not support any deal struck with the White House.

The Freedom Caucus of rightwing lawmakers issued a statement signalling they were only prepared to back a Republican bill that recently passed the House that ties raising the debt ceiling to steep spending cuts, which is a non-starter with Democrats.

“There should be no further discussion until the Senate passes the legislation,” the Freedom Caucus said.

The Freedom Caucus statement underlined the tough political balancing act for McCarthy as he seeks to keep his often fractious conference united while at the same time brokering a deal that will satisfy Biden and congressional Democrats.

Biden likewise is walking a political tightrope as he seeks to strike an agreement without alienating more progressive members of his own party, who have bristled at the suggestion that the president might sign on to Republican requests, including stricter work requirements for people claiming social welfare benefits.

Biden travelled to Japan for the G7 meetings on Wednesday, but is cutting his trip short and will return to Washington on Sunday in light of the debt ceiling stalemate.

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