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GOP negotiator says ‘hell no’ when asked whether Republicans will give in to Biden demands

 May 28, 2023

The ongoing debt ceiling negotiations hit a major roadblock on Friday, with the leading Republican negotiator, Garret Graves (LA-06), firmly stating that the GOP will not surrender its demands for stricter work requirements for able-bodied adult welfare benefits recipients.

This assertion comes amidst a gridlock on the debt ceiling and spending cuts bill with the Democrats. Graves firmly stated, "[there's] not a chance, not happening," when asked about any possibility of relenting on these demands, the Daily Mail reports.

In a critical accusation, Graves suggested that Democrats would risk defaulting on the nation's debt to continue disbursing welfare payments to those unwilling to work. His remarks highlight the deep divide between the two parties and suggest a tough road ahead for reaching an agreement. Graves further remarked that the two sides still have significant unresolved issues.

As the chief negotiator, Graves traveled to the White House not for negotiations but to join President Biden in celebrating the Louisiana State University women's basketball team. He stated his intentions to return to the Capitol after the celebration to re-engage in debt discussions.

Persistent Gridlock

His fellow negotiator, Representative Patrick McHenry, affirmed that there were no in-person meetings planned between House GOP and White House negotiators that day. A day earlier, Graves expressed his frustration with the White House, stating that it was "refusing to negotiate" on the issue of work requirements.

This scenario has drawn attention from different quarters, with both the Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus warning President Biden against accepting increased work requirements for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid.

GOP Proposals and Potential Savings

The Republicans had earlier passed a party-line debt limit and spending cuts bill, the Limit Save Grow Act, which proposed increasing work requirements to 20 hours per week for SNAP, also known as food stamps. This change would apply to individuals between the ages of 50 and 56, expanding from the existing requirements for those between 18 and 49 who are able-bodied and without dependents. The bill also proposed limiting the number of exemptions states could make for these requirements.

According to GOP estimates, their proposal regarding SNAP would result in savings of $11 billion over 10 years. Additionally, according to the Congressional Budget Office, creating new work requirements for Medicaid could lead to even larger savings around $109 billion over the next decade. However, the White House strongly opposes this idea.

Internal Pressure within the GOP

Meanwhile, Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces increasing pressure from the conservative wing of his caucus. Despite warnings from conservative members, he insisted he was 'not at all' concerned as they 'don't know what's in the deal.'

Chair of Financial Services Patrick McHenry (NC-10), a key negotiator from McCarthy's team, remained evasive about the exact timeline for reaching a deal. However, he acknowledged the pressure of time constraints on the negotiators, Fox News reported.

He said, "We've got to be in the closing hours because of the timeline, I don't know if that's the next day or two or three, but it's got to come together."

Earlier in the week, 35 members of the House Freedom Caucus circulated a letter urging McCarthy to 'hold the line' in talks with the White House and not dilute the Limit Save Grow Act.

The bill aims to increase the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion, which will be offset by savings of $4.5 trillion through spending caps at fiscal year 2022 levels in 2024. It also proposes limiting growth to one percent per year for 10 years.

McCarthy expressed his belief that 'progress' was made in overnight debt talks, though spending levels remain a major point of contention. Speaking to reporters, he stated, 'It's about spending. The Democrats never want to stop.'

Historical Precedent and Current Negotiations

This impasse echoes a similar crisis in 2011 under former President Barack Obama, who also faced a Republican House opposed to raising the ceiling. While the ceiling was ultimately raised, the threat of default created turmoil in U.S. financial markets and led to a downgrade of the country's credit rating from AAA to AA+.

As negotiations continued, both Graves and McHenry were seen entering the Speaker's office again on Friday morning. However, the two sides have yet to agree on a top-line number for increasing the nation's borrowing limit.

In the meantime, President Biden was scheduled to head to Camp David on Friday before spending the weekend at his home in Delaware. Despite the President's plans, the White House maintains that he can negotiate from anywhere via phone.

McHenry emphasized the urgency of the situation. He said, "We are here night after night after night. The pressure is more; the consequences are greater. We recognize that. The White House should recognize that."

Towards a Possible Deal

According to Bloomberg, the two sides seem to be closing in on a deal that would increase the debt limit for two years and cap spending for the same amount of time. This potential deal might also claw back $10 billion from the $80 billion increase in IRS funding passed by Democrats in the previous Congress.

However, a source familiar with the talks informed Daily Mail, that the two sides have not yet agreed on a top line and have not agreed on whether to extend borrowing for one or two years. While Republicans favor a one-year extension, Democrats aim to push the extension through the next election.

The Sticking Point of Defense Spending

The two sides are also grappling over defense spending. Republicans have proposed a significant increase to the defense budget, even as they call for overall spending cuts. On the other hand, Democrats are pushing for spending cuts. Both sides might come to an agreement on a modest increase in defense spending, aligning with President Biden's $886.3 billion budget request.