Debt Limit Talks Hit Snag as G.O.P. Declares a ‘Pause’
Negotiations between top White House and Republican congressional officials over a deal to raise the debt limit hit a snag on Friday when a G.O.P. leader in the talks said it was time to “press pause,” complaining that President Biden’s team was being unreasonable and that no progress could be made.
It was a setback in the effort to avert a debt default before a June 1 deadline, though it was not clear whether the delay was a tactical retreat or a lasting blow to chances of getting an agreement.
The halt came one day after the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus declared that Republicans should cease negotiations with Mr. Biden and insist on their debt limit legislation, which demanded steep spending cuts in exchange for raising the federal borrowing cap and is a dead letter in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The abrupt announcement of a pause also came just a day after Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters that he believed negotiators could reach a deal in principle as early as the weekend. But on Friday Mr. McCarthy and his deputies sounded a starkly different tone, saying that White House officials were refusing to come their way on spending cuts.
Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana, whom the speaker appointed to lead negotiations on the debt limit, walked out of the bipartisan talks and said that Mr. Biden’s team was not willing to “have reasonable conversations about how you can actually move forward.”
“We’ve got to get movement by the White House, and we don’t have any movement,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol not long afterward. “We’ve got to pause.”
He hinted that a major sticking point was over how to cap federal spending. House Republicans passed a debt limit bill last month that would raise the nation’s borrowing limit into next year in exchange for freezing spending at last year’s levels for a decade.
“We can’t be spending more money, we have to spend less than we spent the year before,” Mr. McCarthy said.
A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations, said that administration officials were taking the breakdown in negotiations seriously and acknowledged that there were significant differences between the parties, especially around Mr. McCarthy’s stance on capping federal spending.
Mr. McCarthy is under pressure from the hard-right Freedom Caucus not to agree to any deal.
“No more discussion on watering it down,” the group tweeted on Thursday, referring to the House-passed debt limit bill. “Period.”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.