Updated May 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Debt ceiling deadlock centers on 2024 spending levels

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images.

White House and House Republican negotiators are at a stalemate over capping spending levels in the 2024 budget.

Why it matters: The deadlock resulted in a pause in debt ceiling talks on Friday morning as the fiscal cliff draws nearer.

What we're hearing: “The White House wants to continue to spend more money," Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) told Axios.

  • "No deal will be possible as long as that’s their position.”
  • The Main Street Caucus chair said the two sides are "really far apart on the topline" and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is "holding strong" on GOP demands to cap discretionary spending at 2022 levels.

The backdrop: Biden faces pressure from his left flank, which is pushing for him to lift the debt ceiling unilaterally via the 14th Amendment.

  • McCarthy faces similar pressure from the right, which expects him to deliver significant spending cuts.

Yes, but: On other issues, there appears to be more common ground.

  • Welfare work requirements is "an issue where there is not yet agreement, but it was not as big a flashpoint" as discretionary spending, Johnson said.
  • “A number of these policy issues are a little easier to find common ground on – things like COVID aid and permitting reform, it’s easier to understand how to draw the lines in a way that is acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans," Johnson added.

The other side: The White House, while not going as far as to give specifics on the roadblock, concurs that a wide gulf exists.

  • They said in a statement to Axios' Hans Nichols that there are "real differences" and warned that talks will be "difficult."

Between the lines: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the U.S. could run out of money as soon as June 1, adding extra urgency to the talks.

  • "If this was happening 30 or 60 days ago, I wouldn’t be particularly concerned," said Johnson, "The problem is ... we’re down to the last 10 days, and this kind of a pause is a real problem given the tight timeframe."

What's next: Negotiators will resume talks as early as Friday night, McCarthy said on Fox Business.

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