Top White House officials and Republican politicians were closing on a deal that would raise the US debt limit for two years while imposing strict caps on discretionary spending not related to the military or veterans for the same period. Officials were racing to cement an agreement in time to avert a federal default that is projected in just one week.
The deal taking shape would allow Republicans to say that they were reducing some federal spending – even as spending on the military and veterans’ programs would continue to grow – and allow Democrats to say they had spared most domestic programs from significant cuts.
Negotiators from both sides were talking into the evening and beginning to draft legislative text, though some details remained in flux.
“We’ve been talking to the White House all day, we’ve been going back and forth, and it’s not easy,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, told reporters on Thursday evening, declining to divulge what was under discussion. “It takes a while to make it happen, and we are working hard to make it happen.”
The compromise, if it can be agreed upon and enacted, would raise the government’s borrowing limit for two years, past the 2024 election, according to three people familiar with it who insisted on anonymity to discuss a plan that was still being hammered out.
The United States hit the legal limit, currently $31.4 trillion (€29.3 trillion), in January and has been relying on accounting measures to avoid defaulting since then. The Treasury Department has projected it will exhaust its ability to pay bills on time as early as June 1.
In exchange for lifting the debt limit, the deal would meet Republicans’ demand to cut some federal spending, albeit with the help of accounting manoeuvres that would give both sides political cover for an agreement likely to be unpopular with large swathes of their base voters.
It would impose caps on discretionary spending for two years, though those caps would apply differently to spending on the military than to nondefense discretionary spending. Spending on the military would grow next year, as would spending on some veterans’ care that falls under nondefense discretionary spending. The rest of nondefense discretionary spending would fall slightly – or roughly stay flat – compared with this year’s levels. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.