McCarthy, Graves Signal Impasse in White House Debt Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Speaker Kevin McCarthy left the US Capitol late Tuesday afternoon saying the two parties had yet to reach a deal to avert a first-ever US default, and a top lieutenant said there are no more meetings planned.

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Republican Representative Garret Graves, one of McCarthy’s chief negotiators, suggested just hours after a two-hour meeting in the Capitol with his White House counterparts that the two sides were at a standoff.

“Bottom line is that we’re going to have to see some movement or some fundamental change in what they’re doing,” Graves said of the White House negotiating team. “Right now, we don’t have additional meetings set up.”

The standoff in Washington weighed on Asian stocks on Wednesday while US equity futures were flat after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 each fell more than 1% on Tuesday. The US 10-year Treasury yield was moderately lower in Asian trading after falling on Tuesday as investors sought haven assets.

The impasse increases the likelihood the House and Senate would both have to vote on any deal next week, mere hours before June 1, the date by which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the US could run out of cash to pay its bills.

House lawmakers are already anticipating leaving Washington for the Memorial Day holiday weekend on Thursday and returning next week to act. But passing it in the Senate before June 1 would almost certainly require consent from all senators to move quickly to a vote.

Another McCarthy negotiator, Representative Patrick McHenry, said it’s unclear what happens next.

‘My Texts Are a Dumpster Fire’

McHenry said his phone is filled with angsty messages from Wall Street over the standoff but Biden needs to bend.

“My texts are a dumpster fire,” he said.

Graves acknowledged that there has been “substantial progress” and the two sides are “very close” in some areas. But fundamental disagreements remain on spending and work requirements as the calendar veers closer to June 1.

Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the House, told reporters that a freeze at 2023 spending levels would be a “reasonable” compromise. Jeffries, who has opposed work requirements, said any deal that needs Democratic votes will need to reflect Democratic priorities.

Graves said House Republican negotiators are “open” to additional meetings with the White House team. “We’re not going anywhere,” he said.

The House Republican team and leadership will continue to meet among themselves, he added.

The current standoff over the debt ceiling has the potential to put more strain on the US economy, which is already vulnerable to a recession after a series of interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve, according to Bloomberg Economics.

But some conservative House members said Tuesday they even doubt the drama is necessary, with Representative Chip Roy of Texas even calling it a “manufactured crisis” to force Republicans into stepping back from some demands.

Republicans Question If X-Date Is as Close as Yellen Says

Republicans want to slash domestic spending over as many years as possible, while Democrats have offered slimmer cuts over a couple of years. Democrats also want to include defense spending limits in any agreement.

That sets up a key tension for hawkish Republicans, who want to increase the Pentagon budget at the expense of deeper cutbacks in social spending. McCarthy said defense cuts shouldn’t be on the table.

The California Republican said he would not waive a rule that allows House lawmakers 72 hours to review legislation before a vote. Conservatives have demanded the time but it adds to the pressure to get an agreement.

--With assistance from Matthew Boesler and Justin Sink.

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