Debt ceiling talks end after briefly resuming, McCarthy's top negotiator says

The negotiations are expected to continue into the weekend.

ByLauren Peller, Gabe Ferris, Rachel Scott, and Allison Pecorin ABCNews logo
Saturday, May 20, 2023
Debt ceiling talks on 'pause,' McCarthy's top negotiator says
Rep. Garrett Graves, who is leading debt ceiling talks for House Republicans, said Friday negotiations have hit a snag.

WASHINGTON -- The debt limit negotiations between GOP negotiators and the White House ended Friday night with no progress after meeting for roughly an hour and a half. And there's no set plans for the next meeting, according to negotiators, who just left the Capitol.

"At the direction of the Speaker of the House, we re-engaged, had a very, very candid discussion, talking about where we are, talking about where things need to be, what's reasonable and acceptable," Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana said.

Graves said "it's indefinite right now" when asked if talks plan to resume Friday tonight or Saturday.

"We had a candid discussion," Graves added, saying "this was not a negotiation tonight. This was a candid discussion about realistic numbers, a realistic path forward and something that truly changes the trajectory of this country's spending and debt problem."

Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina said "no" when asked if he's confident negotiators can reach a framework by the end of this weekend.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said a deal needs to be reached by the end of the weekend in order for the House and the Senate to have enough time to pass it before the June 1 deadline.

McHenry said, "we're unlikely to be back tonight."

White House senior adviser Steve Ricchetti said "we're going to keep working tonight" when leaving the Capitol.

There had been hope that progress would be made after a day of stalled negotiations when McCarthy said on Friday evening that negotiators would be "back in the room tonight" to continue working on a solution to the impending debt limit crisis.

The White House confirmed to ABC News that the negotiating parties are reconvening shortly for talks.

McCarthy told Fox Business said that negotiators "took a pause" this afternoon because of the "frustration" over the White House's negotiating position.

Rep. Garrett Graves, who is leading debt ceiling talks for House Republicans, said Friday negotiations have hit a snag.

The back and forth between the two parties comes as time is quickly running out for lawmakers to find a debt ceiling compromise or risk default for the first time in history. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned the U.S. could run out of cash to pay all its bills as early as June 1, though the exact date remains uncertain.

A key sticking point in the negotiations is spending caps, two sources familiar with the talks told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott.

White House negotiators said they are "playing it by ear" when asked about the possibility of more meetings Friday and during the weekend.

Despite the snag, a White House spokesperson insisted Friday a deal was still "possible."

"A responsible, bipartisan budget agreements remains possible if both sides negotiate in good faith and recognize that neither side will get everything it wants," the spokesperson said. "There are real differences between the parties on budget issues and talks will be difficult. The President's team is working hard towards a reasonable bipartisan solution that can pass the House and the Senate."

But Graves, who is leading debt ceiling talks for House Republicans, slammed the administration position as "unreasonable."

"Until people are willing to have reasonable conversations about how you can actually move forward and do the right thing, then we're not going to sit here and talk to ourselves," Graves said Friday.

The Louisiana Republican touted the Save, Limit, Grow Act that the House narrowly passed last month, which he said "has great savings in it. and it's responsible and puts us on a path to bend the curve."

The bill, which would block various White House priorities such as federal student debt cancellation and new funding for the IRS, has been deemed a nonstarter by Democrats.

Justin Finch has more on President Biden's high-stakes meeting with Congressional leaders on the debt limit.

The apparent breakdown comes after the White House late Thursday night touted "steady progress" following a phone call between President Biden, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and counselor to the president Steve Ricchetti.

"The President's team informed him that steady progress is being made. The President directed his team to continue pressing forward for a bipartisan agreement and made clear the need to protect essential programs for hardworking Americans and the economic progress of the past two years as negotiations head into advanced stages," the White House tweeted.

"He remains confident that Congress will take necessary action to avoid default," the White House added.

McCarthy, too, seemed more optimistic Thursday than at any other point in the process as he said they were in a "much better" place than a week ago.

But on Friday, he said there had to be "movement over at the White House." He said he hadn't spoken to Biden, who is overseas meeting with G-7 leaders.

Timing remains critical as lawmakers stare down a fast-approaching deadline to lift or suspend the debt ceiling or risk a default. McCarthy said Thursday he believed a deal would need to made in principle by this weekend in order for a bill to clear the House and Senate before June 1.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who was in the meeting with negotiators on Friday, told ABC News he doesn't know if a deal is possible by this weekend.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson and Elizabeth Schulze contributed to this report.