President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have been meeting to negotiate over raising the country’s debt ceiling.

Here are updates.

Sen. Mike Lee to offer amendment to Fiscal Responsibility Act

Thursday, June 1

Utah Sen. Mike Lee introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Responsibility Act Thursday, as the Senate prepares to vote on the bill.

The amendment would strike a section from the bill that Lee says gives the Biden administration a workaround on a pay-as-you-go provision.

The section the Republican senator would like to see cut gives the director of the Office of Management and Budget a waiver over the bill’s requirement that new spending be offset by cuts elsewhere.

Lee’s amendment comes in part as a response to a statement by current OMB Director Shalanda Young, who said at a White House briefing, “if that waiver is deemed necessary to make sure President Biden’s agenda is carried forward, we’re going to use that authority.”

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate would “move quickly to pass the bill.” The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Friday.

Debt ceiling bill passes House, on its way to Senate

Wednesday, May 31

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Responsibility Act Wednesday evening in a bipartisan show of support for the deal crafted by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

The House passed the bill in a 314-117 vote, with 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats opposing the measure.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., opened the hourlong debate by saying that House Republicans took action to address the debt ceiling “while the White House was saying they would only accept a blank check debt ceiling increase — an idea that did not and does not have the votes, even in a Senate controlled by the president’s own party.”

Read more here.

Fiscal Responsibility Act clears House Rules Committee

Tuesday, May 30

In a 7-6 vote, the Fiscal Responsibility Act cleared the House Rules Committee, with all Democrats voting no, joined by Republican Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of South Carolina.

This was an important hurdle for the bill to clear before it can be heard by the full U.S. House.

The bill still faces a bumpy road in the Senate, where Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican, has said he will use “every procedural tool” to slow its passage.

How Republicans are responding to the debt ceiling bill

Tuesday, May 30

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he reached a deal with President Joe Biden to raise the debt ceiling and most of his conference is on board. Not every Republican is ready to vote yes or support the deal, though.

The bill has the backing of Republicans including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota and Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 House Republican. Romney called the bill a “good-faith bipartisan compromise” and Johnson said he was sure it would pass, but to not expect unanimous support.

“I’ve talked to dozens of members, and listen, not every single member is on board,” Johnson told NBC News Monday. “But when was the last time that every single member of Congress agreed on anything?”

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group, are among the most vocal opponents of the deal.

Read more here.

Progressive lawmakers avoid supporting the debt ceiling deal, centrist Democrats unite

Tuesday, May 30

Democrats are engaged in a delicate dance after the debt ceiling deal was finalized over the weekend as they reel in their skepticism to avoid giving Republicans ammunition and hold back on saying yes to the legislation.

Called the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the legislation would raise the debt ceiling and allow the U.S. to borrow until 2025 in exchange for cutting spending, as the Deseret News reported.

Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal told CNN on Sunday that the White House and Congressional Democrats should worry about whether the House Progressive Caucus, which she chairs, will support the proposed legislation.

Read more here.

Sen. Mitt Romney supports debt ceiling deal; Sen. Mike Lee says it doesn’t go far enough

Monday, May 29

Utah’s two Republican senators had different reactions to the debt ceiling deal finalized over the weekend, with Sen. Mitt Romney saying he supports the agreement while Sen. Mike Lee has expressed his displeasure with the deal in multiple tweets.

A spokesman for Lee told the Deseret News on Monday that the senator is “extremely disappointed with what emerged from the negotiations and his tweets convey that. I expect he’ll have much more to say in coming days.”

In a statement released Monday, Romney praised some of the reforms included in the agreement, which was finalized late Saturday, while saying he wished negotiators had addressed entitlement reform.

Read more here.

Biden, McCarthy reach deal; hurdles remain

Saturday, May 27

Biden and McCarthy reached a deal late Saturday over raising the amount of money the nation can borrow, but the bill will still have to pass the House and Senate before they can declare victory.

McCarthy told reporters Saturday he had spoken to the president by phone for 90 minutes.

“After weeks of negotiations we have come to an agreement in principle,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe this is an agreement in principle that is worthy of the American people.”

He said the agreement included “historic reductions in spending,” as well as reforms to “lift people out of poverty and into work,” and to rein in government overreach. He said it included no new taxes.

McCarthy said they still had more work to do to finish writing the bill, but said he expects to have the full text of the legislation posted Sunday, with the House voting on Wednesday.

The agreement would raise the debt ceiling for two years, in combination with limits on spending during that time, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Reuters reported the agreement included a cap on non-defense discretionary spending for 2023 and a 1% increase in 2025.

McCarthy and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will have to convince enough members in their conferences to support the bill for it to pass the lower chamber. Some hardline progressives and conservatives in the House have expressed doubts over what might be included in a final agreement.

The bill could also face some opposition in the Senate, where it requires 60 votes to pass.

Earlier this week, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee said he would use “every procedural tool” at his disposal if the agreement does not include “substantial spending and budgetary reforms.”

He said he would like the final agreement to include language from the REINS Act, which would give Congress the power to review some rules made by federal agencies before they take effect.

Yellen says nation can make payments until June 5

Friday, May 26

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the nation can continue to make its payments until June 5, giving Biden and McCarthy a little breathing room as they’re trying to negotiate a final agreement on the debt ceiling.

In a letter to McCarthy, Yellen says Treasury will have “insufficient resources to satisfy the government’s obligations” by June 5.

As negotiations continue over Memorial Day weekend, both Biden and McCarthy have said the two sides are getting closer to a deal.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that work requirements for benefit programs are among the remaining sticking points, as well the $80 billion boost the IRS received last year, which Republicans would like to see eliminated.

Even after an agreement is reached, it could take several days to get it written up and approved by both chambers, making it necessary for negotiators to continue to meet over the long weekend.

The debt ceiling, explained

Thursday, May 25

What is the debt ceiling? It is a limit on the amount of money the U.S. is authorized to borrow to pay for existing government spending obligations like Social Security, Medicare, debt service and defense spending. The debt ceiling is currently at $31 trillion.

Why does the debt ceiling need to be raised? Congress decides how much the U.S. is allowed to borrow. In January, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the U.S. had hit its statutory limit but she could take measures to push the need for an increase until June.

According to the Center of American Progress, federal agencies will have to pay bills using only incoming revenues if the debt limit isn’t increased or suspended.

Has the debt ceiling been raised before? Yes, on many occasions. Congress has raised or revised the debt limit 78 separate times since 1960, per the Department of Treasury.

The issue has become increasingly political. With a narrowly divided Congress this year, Republicans are demanding spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling but Democrats are pushing against the GOP’s demands.

According to Time Magazine, the last time the country was debt free was in 1835, under then-President Andrew Jackson when he liquidated the Second Bank.

Will the debt ceiling affect Social Security and federal employees?

Without Congress taking action on the debt ceiling, Social Security benefit payments, roughly $25 billion a week, might be delayed, as CNN reported.

“A lot of people in Washington are not that in tune with what this could mean,” said Max Richtman, the CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “If you depend on your Social Security for most of your living expenses, you’re not going to be able to pay your rent, buy your food, pay your utilities, the basics … pay out-of-pocket health care costs that may come up.”

Federal employees and the military might also experience delays in receiving paychecks.

How will the debt ceiling be resolved? A bill will have to pass both chambers of Congress raising the borrowing limit, and then President Joe Biden will need to sign it. Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are currently negotiating over a compromise. A bill raising the debt ceiling was already passed by House Republicans, but Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer say it went too far on spending cuts and reforms.

Democrats are looking into the 14th Amendment, which protects citizenship rights, as a way to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, as ABC News reported. But few legal scholars think this is a viable option.

Is this the first time the U.S. will default on its payments? The White House has said that “the country has never intentionally defaulted on its obligations because of the debt limit.”

Treasury Secretary Yellen again warns about failure to lift debt ceiling

Thursday, May 25

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the U.S. is getting closer to not being able to pay all its bills.

“If Congress doesn’t act to raise the debt ceiling, and if we hit the so-called X-date without that occurring, there will be some obligations that we will be unable to pay,” Yellen said in a video appearance at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit on Wednesday, according to the Journal.

Yellen has previously said the U.S. could default as soon as June 1, but in her remarks Wednesday, she indicated the date of default could come later in the month.

“It seems almost certain that we will not be able to get past early June,” she said.

Read more here.

Sen. Mike Lee says he’ll delay debt ceiling deal unless cuts are ‘substantial’

Thursday, May 25

Sen. Mike Lee said he would use “every procedural tool” possible to delay a debt ceiling deal if it doesn’t contain “substantial” cuts, in a tweet published Thursday morning.

Lee’s comments come as McCarthy appears to be trying to moderate expectations over what will be included in the agreement.

“One thing I will tell people is this still won’t solve all the problems. The president took a lot of things off the table, but this will put us in the first step,” McCarthy told Fox News. “Whatever we don’t achieve here, we’ll come back the next day to get it because we’ve got to start working toward being able to balance the budget.”

Read more here.

President Joe Biden meets with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to discuss the debt limit in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, May 22, 2023, in Washington. | Alex Brandon, Associated Press

The clock is ticking as McCarthy and Biden say no deal yet, but talks ‘productive’

Monday, May 22

While high level negotiations over the debt ceiling continued Monday, President Joe Biden said he was “optimistic,” after both he and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed that “default is not on the table.”

But Rep. Patrick McHenry, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and one of the chief negotiators for Republicans, characterized the talks as only “reasonably productive.”

“What I sense from the White House is a lack of urgency,” said McHenry.

Read more here.

After brief pause, debt ceiling talks between Biden and GOP back on

Friday, May 19

House Financial Services Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said talks had resumed and negotiators planned to work over the weekend, according to Politico. The White House and congressional leaders are trying to come to an agreement to stave off a default, which Biden administration officials warn could come by June 1.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Friday on Fox Business that Republicans would work into the night Friday but they expected Democrats to make additional cuts.

“It’s very frustrating if they want to come into the room and think we’re going to spend more money next year than we did this year. That’s not right, and that’s not going to happen,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., who was asked by McCarthy to represent the GOP in negotiations, said the negotiations had stopped.

“We’ve decided to press pause, because it’s just not productive,” Graves told reporters Friday, according to Politico.

Read more here.

In debt ceiling standoff, Senate and House Republicans present united front against Biden and House Democrats

Wednesday, May 19

Republicans from the House and Senate gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to show they are united in their demand for cuts and reforms in exchange for increasing the amount of money the federal government can borrow.

House Democrats plan to test that resolve. They started collecting signatures on a discharge petition Wednesday to force a vote on a so-called “clean” debt ceiling bill, that would raise the ceiling with no conditions attached.

Read more here.

Congressional leaders say they want to find a bipartisan solution on debt limit

Friday, May 19

Congressional leaders haven’t reached an agreement with the White House over raising the debt limit yet, but they’ve agreed to continue talks to try to find a bipartisan solution.

“Everyone, including the speaker, agreed we need to be bipartisan,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday after meeting at the White House with President Joe Biden; Vice President Kamala Harris; House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken.; and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

“The idea of having a partisan bill, we knew would get us nowhere and everyone freely admitted that in the room,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said.

Read more here.

Biden thinks he can reach an agreement with Republicans over the debt ceiling

Monday, May 15

President Joe Biden said he thinks he can reach an agreement with Republican lawmakers to raise the debt limit before the U.S. defaults, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy isn’t as publicly optimistic.

After postponing a meeting with congressional leaders Friday, Biden spoke to journalists Sunday in Delaware. He said, “I remain optimistic because I’m a congenital optimist.”

“I really think there’s a desire on their part as well as ours to reach an agreement,” Biden said. “I think we’ll be able to do it.”

Read more here.

After 43 GOP senators sign Lee’s letter, Biden has little choice but to negotiate on debt ceiling

Monday, May 8

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A letter signed by 43 Republican senators puts additional pressure on President Biden to agree to cuts as part of the negotiations.

The letter, sent to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, was initiated by Utah Sen. Mike Lee. It says Republicans in the Senate are “united behind the House Republican conference in support of spending cuts and structural budget reform as a starting point for negotiations on the debt ceiling.”

With 43 senators signing on to the letter, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schumer is unlikely to have the votes to move a condition-free debt ceiling bill to a vote.

Read more here.

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