The Picture Being Painted by Key Debt-Ceiling Players

Words 'confident' and 'optimistic' are getting used, but there's a ways to go
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2023 11:00 AM CDT
The Picture Being Painted by Key Debt-Ceiling Players
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Washington, with from left, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of Calif., Vice President Kamala Harris, and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As the clock ticks down to June 1, the president and congressional leaders continue to sound off about the likelihood of striking a deal on raising the debt ceiling. President Biden held a second Oval Office meeting with House and Senate leaders Kevin McCarthy, Hakeem Jeffries, Chuck Schumer, and Mitch McConnell Tuesday night—with Schumer agreeing to a McCarthy-Biden negotiation. Takeaways from the key players last night and Wednesday morning, ahead of Biden's departure for the G7 summit in Japan:

  • McCarthy, Tuesday night, per Reuters: "It is possible to get a deal by the end of the week. It's not that difficult to get to an agreement."
  • McCarthy, in a Wednesday morning interview with CNBC: "The only thing I'm confident about is now we have a structure to find a way to come to a conclusion ... I think at the end of the day we do not have a debt default. ... The problem is, the timeline is very short."
  • Jeffries, in a Wednesday morning interview with CNBC: "It was a very positive meeting yesterday. It was calm. It was candid in terms of the discussion, and I'm optimistic common ground will be found in the next week or two."
  • Biden, ahead of his Wednesday departure, per the AP: "I'm confident that we'll get the agreement on the budget and America will not default ... because there's no alternative."

How are members of Congress interpreting things? Politico has a fairly pessimistic assessment from Democratic Sen. Peter Welch, who served eight terms in the House: "It's not about being comfortable with Biden or anyone else. It's about the House. Kevin's in shackles. He's in leg, arms, and hand cuffs. And frankly I don't think he's got much capacity to negotiate. And very little capacity to advance a deal." On the GOP side, "McCarthy's conference has remained in lockstep behind him," opines Politico. "No Republicans have publicly spoken out against his approach so far." (Biden curtailed his trip and will be back in the US Sunday; negotiations are expected to continue by phone in the interim.)

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