Speaker Kevin McCarthy brushed off grumblings from the conservative flank of his conference over his ongoing debt limit negotiations with the White House, conceding that a final agreement would have to pass the Democratically-held Senate and be signed by President Biden.
The Republican leader arrived at the U.S. Capitol late on Friday morning, briefly stopping to tell reporters he felt “progress” was made in the prior night’s talks.
“We’ve got to make more progress now,” McCarthy said.
It comes after a letter signed by 35 members of the hardline-right House Freedom Caucus calling on him to “hold the line” against the White House and not compromise on any points laid out in the House GOP’s debt limit bill. Passed in April, the Limit, Save, Grow act would raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion or through March 2024 and couple that with a $150 billion spending cut from this year to the next, tighter work requirements for federal benefits, and a rollback of key Biden administration policies.
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In addition to staying firm on those demands, the Freedom Caucus urged McCarthy to consider adding border security provisions into the final deal – something that’s virtually guaranteed to be a nonstarter with Democratic negotiators.
“You’re talking to people who don’t know what’s in the deal. So I’m not concerned about anybody making any comments right now about what they think is in or not in,” McCarthy said when asked about dissent within his conference. “Whenever we come to an agreement, we’ll make sure we will first brief our entire conference. So when you go and ask them questions, at least let them know what’s in it before they’re trying to get it.”
He also said he was “not at all” concerned about the Freedom Caucus letter.
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“Look, what’s going through right now is, members don’t know what’s all in. You all report things that aren’t really true in the process, so people get concerned,” McCarthy said. “If you wonder about holding the line, where we’ve been all the time, we don’t want to be in this deadline. We wanted to solve this months before.”
McCarthy added that he gives his GOP conference “a lot of credit” for passing their bill along party lines in April – but acknowledged it likely would not be the final deal.
“It raises the debt limit, it curves back our spending, brings back wasteful money and actually unshackles what’s holding us back,” he said.
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“This is all positive stuff, but unfortunately, we’ve got to get a bill that can get through the Senate and signed by the President, and it’s a lot of negotiation…but we’re willing to do the work.”
Multiple reports indicated last night that the White House and McCarthy’s allies were nearing a deal on the debt limit as of Thursday night, as the early June deadline for when the U.S. government is expected to run out of cash quickly approaches.
But a source familiar with the talks had told Fox News Digital that toplines had not been agreed to, nor has an agreement been reached on whether to lift the debt ceiling for one year – as Republicans are calling for – or two, which Democrats prefer.
The source added that most components could not be set until both parties came together over defense spending levels.