House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is facing pressure from within his party to come up with a plan to address the nation’s debt limit, as Democrats have refused to enter into negotiations. McCarthy is urging the White House to start discussions this week, but Democrats have characterized ideas floated by the GOP as nonstarters. With the Treasury Department beginning “extraordinary measures” to keep the U.S. government from defaulting on its debt, the impasse has heightened public concern in recent days.
House Republicans have called to tie spending cuts to any bill raising or suspending the debt limit — while Democrats have instead insisted on a clean bill to address the debt ceiling. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has demanded that Congress deal with the debt limit “without conditions.” McCarthy and Republicans face pressure to come up with clearer goals for the party to work toward in debt limit talks. The nation’s debt has climbed to more than $31.4 trillion this week, and the Treasury Department has said a “debt issuance suspension period” will last through June 5.
The current stalemate has been compared to the debt limit standoff in 2011, when a GOP-led House wrestled with a Democrat-led Senate and the Obama administration to secure concessions on spending. Strategists say that McCarthy and Republicans also face more pressure to begin to come up with clearer goals for the party to work toward in debt limit talks. They point to divisions within the party and the historic 15 rounds of votes it took for Republicans to elect McCarthy as Speaker — but only after he agreed to a list of concessions from detractors in his party.
GOP strategists have warned that the longer it takes Republicans to unite behind a plan to address the borrowing limit, the more the party runs the risk of bad optics. Some Republicans have raised the prospect of leveraging the debt limit to secure potential changes to programs like Social Security and Medicare in recent months. But others have been wary of linking the debt limit fight to reforms to either of the popular programs. McCarthy has also signaled some support for certain cuts in tax dollars for defense, as he looks for ways to draw down spending to appeal to the different factions in his conference.