Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics
newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Leave your feedback
With the U.S. potentially just one week away from defaulting on its debts, members of Congress are leaving town for the Memorial Day break without a deal. The White House and House Republicans are continuing to negotiate. Lisa Desjardins reports on the latest talks.
With the U.S. potentially just one week away from defaulting on its debts, members of Congress are leaving town for the Memorial Day break without a deal. The White House and House Republicans are continuing to negotiate.
Lisa Desjardins brings us up to speed.
In the halls of power, hopes for a finish line. Top leaders were careful.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):
We have already talked to the White House today. We will continue to work. They're working on numbers. We're working on numbers. And we will work together.
Joe Biden, President of the United States: Our staffs continue to meet as we speak, as a matter of fact, and they're making progress. I have made clear time and again defaulting on our national debt is not an option.
But word of a possible debt ceiling deal was ringing.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN):
I think they're very close. I think — I think we all know there's going to have to be some give-and-take, and I think they're right. They're very close to it.
Key conservatives like Chip Roy of Texas didn't like talk of a longer debt ceiling increase without more concessions.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX):
Yes, my antenna is up that does not seem to me to meet what our expectations are in terms of transformative, substantive fiscal reforms necessary to raise the debt ceiling.
On Twitter, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah threatened to hold up any bill without substantial reform, potentially jeopardizing default.
And progressives like New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman insisted the debt ceiling should be raised with no concessions.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY):
Very concerned. I mean, again, we — Republicans, McCarthy raised the debt limit three times under Trump. Now, because a Democratic — a Democrat is in the presidency, now he has an issue with that? That's politics. That's not governance.
Dozens of Democrats took to the House floor hoping to tilt a deal left.
Extreme MAGA Republicans have needlessly manufactured an economic crisis.
Don't make Americans pay for Republican hypocrisy.
But very few people are actually in the behind-closed-doors talks.
One of them, Republican Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, summed things up.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC):
Nothing's resolved. Nothing's resolved. And everyone wants to think you can lock up and bank something. You can't bank anything until you actually have a complete deal.
Lisa joins us now to break down the very latest on these talks.
Lisa, I keep hearing this word progress from the White House and from House Republicans. When are we going to hear the word agreement, deal? When is that going to happen?
There's no deal until all of this comes together. And we can report, my reporting, along with Laura Barron-Lopez's reporting in the last day, is that the talks have moved towards what Democrats are asking for, is a longer increase in the debt ceiling, maybe even two years.
But Republicans like Chip Roy, they want more concessions for that. And that's one of the hangups now. But, otherwise, they have gotten closer on spending cuts, very close on something called permitting reform, but very tangled up over work requirements for food stamps, SNAP benefits, they are called. That is a real dividing line.
And that also includes some money that affects the bottom line here. So that's what they're working on tonight, and also both sides trying to figure out if they have enough votes on either side to get through what is shaping up to be a possible deal, today, tomorrow, critical days.
And Republicans have said all along they want concessions on spending cuts. What exactly are they looking for?
Earlier this week, we looked at the debt itself, which is one side of the coin here.
The other side, the concern for Democrats, is the spending cuts, I want to take people through what the Republicans are asking for specifically. Let's look at spending now. This is the last three years. The last fiscal year is the one at the end. That's the one we're in currently now, $1.6 trillion in discretionary funds that Congress controls. That's the spending level.
Republicans want to cut that back to the level it was about a year-and-a-half ago in fiscal year '22. That would be $130 billion in cuts. It looks like such a tiny slice there. But that's $130 billion. And for Democrats, they see that as a much bigger deal.
And most domestic spending is tied to the defense budget. And I don't hear Republicans or Democrats talking about cutting the Pentagon budget. So what's left?
This is such a critical concept here. Who gets cut if you have spending cuts?
Let's look at a different way of understanding these numbers. Right now, all of that discretionary money, part is in defense, a little bit more for defense, than in nondefense. This is the current year's budget. What Republicans are saying is, they would protect all of that defense money and money for veterans. That's hundreds of billions of dollars.
What would be the result if they — to get that $130 billion cut? They would have to cut everything else by a third. So that is something that would have incredibly far-reaching repercussions for Americans across the board. Let's talk about schools. The White House says that that kind of cut if applied on average to school funding would mean 26 million students in schools across the country that are — especially are low-income that would not have access to different grants and other help.
They would also affect housing vouchers for some 80,000 — 800,000 Americans who use federal housing vouchers to help with their rent. In addition, let's talk about programs for the elderly, Meals on Wheels. That's a federally held program. And that was face perhaps cuts of 30 percent.
In addition, let's talk about the U.S. Border Patrol, not just social programs, but the U.S. Border Patrol is not a defense agency. They could see a cut of 30 percent at this time, when people like Amna are reporting on a surge and all the needs at the border.
How about rail inspections? That's another example of something getting a lot of attention now. There's a lot of concern about how safe our rails are. And rail inspectors would also be a place that see a 30 percent cut.
In short, Geoff, everything in government could see that kind of cut. Republicans argue, wait a minute, all of these agencies are overfunded. They have been for years, Democrats say, no, we're talking about real lives, real people, real children, real senior citizens.
One note on that. That kind of spending cut would not affect Social Security or Medicare, but it would affect government agencies, how you touch and see the government, national parks, those kinds of things.
Yes. And that's important to point out.
Can we talk about the calendar?
With members leaving for the Memorial Day break, that gives them, what, two days, maybe a day?
I mean, you know all this stuff. How much time do they have to do a deal to get back on Tuesday?
This is the point where you have to suspend logic…
… to be honest.
I think what's going to happen is, if we don't have a deal in the next two days, they will be forced to reckon with a short-term spending or a short-term debt lift. And they may have to do that anyway. That's why these next two days are critical. If they can get a framework in the next two days, they have enough time to write the bill. They have enough time to pass it in House, barely.
Lisa Desjardins following it all for us, thanks so much. Good to see you.
Watch the Full Episode
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Matt Loffman is the PBS NewsHour's Deputy Senior Politics Producer
Support Provided By: