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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

McCarthy renews call for spending cuts as debt talks resume at White House

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks to reporters upon returning to the U.S. Capitol building after meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House, where they continued negotiations over increasing the debt limit, in Washington, on May 22, 2023.

By Carl Hulse and Catie Edmondson

With a potential federal default just over a week away, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy renewed his call Wednesday for President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats to accept spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit and allowing the Treasury Department to avoid missing payments.

“You have to spend less than you spent last year,” McCarthy said at a news conference in the Capitol as Biden administration and Republican negotiators gathered at the White House. “That is not that difficult to do. But in Washington, somehow that is a problem.”

The administration has tried to hold the line against cuts and instead push for a freeze on current spending levels, but McCarthy has made reductions in domestic programs a central demand in the negotiations. With Republicans insisting against cuts to defense or veterans’ programs, the brunt of the reductions would affect social programs that Democrats favor.

Despite a series of regular meetings, negotiators have reported little progress on the substance of any agreement. Still, McCarthy continued to express hope that a deal could be reached before the June 1 deadline.

“I think we can make progress today,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “I’m hoping that we can.”

Right-wing Republicans have vowed to oppose any compromise that retreats from cuts that were part of their debt-limit bill, which was approved last month along party lines, so McCarthy is likely to need a substantial number of Democratic votes to pass an agreement. But congressional Democrats are resisting cuts in the overall budget.

The House is set to begin a weeklong Memorial Day recess on Friday, and McCarthy will need to decide whether to hold members in Washington or to send them home and then call them back if an agreement can be reached. He has vowed to give lawmakers 72 hours to review any plan, meaning consideration of any deal appears to be slipping into next week.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned repeatedly that the government could exhaust its ability to meet all of its obligations by June 1.

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