Republicans and the White House resumed debt ceiling talks on Friday evening after frustrated GOP negotiators hit pause for much of the day.
Emerging from the meeting in the Capitol, which lasted roughly an hour and a half, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), the lead GOP negotiator, said the group had a “candid discussion.”
“At the direction of the Speaker of the House we reengaged, had a very, very candid discussion talking about where we are, talking about where things need to be, what’s reasonable and acceptable, and that’s basically what’s going on right now,” Graves told reporters.
“This wasn’t a negotiation tonight,” he later said when asked if the two sides were coming any closer. “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.”
White House senior adviser Steve Ricchetti told reporters “we’re gonna keep working tonight” when leaving the Capitol.
But a key Republican negotiator is not confident about coming to an agreement this weekend, which Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said has to happen to allow legislation to pass through the House and Senate by June 1, the day Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the U.S. could default by.
Entering the Friday night meeting, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said he was “not at all” confident that there would be a framework for a debt limit deal by this weekend. Asked if the evening talks had helped increase his confidence, he said “no.”
Talks resumed between White House officials and GOP negotiators Friday night after an hours-long pause that went into effect earlier in the day. Friday morning, Graves emerged from a meeting saying that the White House was being “unreasonable.”
McCarthy arrived at the Capitol shortly after and also pointed the finger at the White House.
“Yesterday I really felt we were at the location where I could see the path. The White House is just — look, we can’t be spending more money next year. We have to spend less than we spent the year before. It’s pretty easy,” he said.
But hours later, the Speaker announced on Fox Business that talks were resuming.
“Just now, we are back in the room. We’ll be back in the room tonight,” he said.
“But it is frustrating if they want to come in the room and think we’re going to spend more money next year than the year we did this year,” McCarthy said. “That’s not right and that’s not going to happen.
As McCarthy appeared on the cable network shortly after 6 p.m., the two chief White House negotiators, Ricchetti and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, entered the negotiating room along with McHenry.
Young and Ricchetti would not comment walking into the meeting.
“At the Speaker’s request we’re going back in and we’re gonna keep talking,” McHenry said in the Capitol.
McCarthy’s statements on Fox Business and to reporters earlier in the day pointed to spending levels being a key point of contention.
Republicans seek to cap overall discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels while allowing for 1 percent growth per year for 10 years. Congress passed an omnibus funding bill for fiscal year 2023 in December.
But the White House has been messaging hard against that. A memo from the White House released this week said that if the topline discretionary number is set at that level, and if Republicans hold firm on commitments to not cut defense spending or the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, other programs would be slashed by 30 percent.
The back-and-forth comes a day after both McCarthy and the White House had expressed optimism about how negotiations were progressing.
Updated at 8:21 p.m.