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Negotiators aim for weekend deal to avoid default

“I’m hopeful,” the House Financial Services chairman said Patrick McHenry (RN.C.), as he entered the speaker’s suite around dinnertime on Friday. “But we have to make sure that we are aligned with the text, aligned with the agreements. There are significant challenges ahead, and I don’t know if it’s hours or days.”

The two sides were intent on reaching a deal as soon as possible over the weekend, even as negotiators were granted a critical extension to the pressing debt limitation deadline that once loomed as early as June 1. Now Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has briefed the President Kevin McCarthy that the borrowing limit will expire on June 5.

Yet even with those extra days, McHenry insisted negotiators were moving forward with as much urgency as they sought a final deal with the White House amid intense pressure in Washington and Wall. Street.

“It maintains and ensures urgency,” McHenry told reporters earlier Friday night, noting some “skepticism” about the earlier date within his party.

The new, slightly delayed June 5 deadline comes as negotiators struggled to reach agreement on key issues, such as GOP demands for new work demands on social programs, after days of frantic talks. . Behind the scenes, a lot of progress has been made.

The two sides have all but finalized the spending part of the talks, according to two people familiar with the talks. Also on the table is a new procedure in place to get Congress to pass the 12 spending bills and a plan to recover unspent Covid money.

It was perhaps that progress that led Biden to express hope for the direction of the talks as he spoke to reporters just before leaving the White House Friday night for Camp David.

“Things are looking good. I am very optimistic. Hopefully we will have clear evidence tonight – before the clock strikes 12 – that we have a deal,” he told reporters as he made his way to Marine One. “Hopefully we will know by tonight if we can get a deal done.”

At the start of the weekend, Republican negotiators said they had not yet scheduled face-to-face meetings with their White House counterparts, though they added they were in “constant” communication via emails. calls and other electronic communications.

Once an agreement is reached, lawmakers expect it will take a day or two to turn it into full legislative text. Republicans have also pledged to wait 72 hours after this is finalized before any votes – part of the deal McCarthy struck with the conservatives to win the president’s gavel.

And both sides will have to begin an intense whipping operation to clinch the votes, especially in the House, where some early details of the deal sparked heartburn from McCarthy’s conservative flank, threatening to shatter the unity that House Republicans have described since passing theirs. debt regime. McCarthy, however, played down criticism from the right, saying they “don’t know what’s in the deal.”

And then there is the Senate. No one expects the House to pass the bill by unanimous consent – especially after Sen. mike lee (R-Utah) has pledged to slow down the process — meaning it could take days for the upper house to pass the legislation before it goes to Biden’s office.

McCarthy, meanwhile, promised the talks would continue at an urgent pace.

“I’m going to work as hard as I can to try to get things done, make more progress today and finish the job,” McCarthy said.

But work requirements and permit reform remain two major sticking points. The White House, according to one person familiar, “continues to press against measures it says could push Americans into poverty or take away their health care.” But Republicans accuse the White House of digging in and wanting to pay “able-bodied without dependents” people to stay home.

“Democrats are currently prepared to default on debt so they can continue to pay welfare benefits to people who refuse to work. And I’m talking about people without dependents, able-bodied people between the ages of 18 and 55,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) told reporters Friday afternoon.

Privately, Republicans acknowledge that they are unlikely to impose new work demands on Medicaid, but they continue to push for the measure to continue to pressure the White House on their other top priorities: demands expanded working conditions for the emergency cash assistance program. known as the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and the country’s main anti-hunger program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

When asked if Republicans were willing to drop the work demands, Graves added, “Hell no.” This remained a problem Friday night.

The White House, for its part, has strongly pushed back on continued GOP efforts to add new work requirements to social safety net programs under the deal.

“House Republicans are threatening to trigger an unprecedented recession and cost the American people more than 8 million jobs unless they can get food out of the mouths of starving Americans,” the doorman said. White House spokesman Andrew Bates, citing GOP demands for “additional new work demands.” designed to trap the most vulnerable in bureaucratic red tape, which has shown no benefit in getting more people into the labor market.

Meredith Lee Hill, Olivia Beavers, Daniella Diaz, Rachael Bade, Jennifer Haberkorn and Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.

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