There’s still no deal in place for Congress and the White House to avoid a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt. But even as talks continued going into the weekend, one thing was already clear: A lot of Republicans and Democrats don’t like the deal, whatever it is.

On the right, the House Freedom Caucus has called for an end to negotiations over the debt ceiling entirely, saying “there should be no further discussion” until the Senate acts on a House bill that would raise the borrowing limit while sharply cutting federal spending. On the left, a growing coalition of Senate Democrats is calling for Biden to prepare to invoke the 14th Amendment, pushing for a unilateral – but potentially risky – move that would sidestep the close circle of negotiators trying to hammer out a compromise. House Democrats are trying their long-shot bid to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts, circulating a petition that could force a vote.

In the middle, negotiations broke down for much of the day on Friday, before resuming later in the evening. With the clock ticking toward a possible June 1 deadline, there was still much ground to cover going into the weekend.

If President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., do manage to reach a compromise, leaders in both chambers of Congress will then have to keep enough of their members on board to pass a deal before the government runs out of money. That could center negotiations on issues most palatable to moderates, alienating more staunch conservatives and liberals who might not vote for the final bill. Even if the most conservative and most liberal members of both chambers oppose legislation enacting a deal, it could still easily pass if other lawmakers back it.

There were signs this week that congressional leaders were already preparing for such an outcome. In a statement Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., offered a simple word of caution: “No one will get everything they want.”

Last month, the House approved its GOP-backed bill to raise the debt ceiling while also slashing federal spending and repealing many of Biden’s moves on climate change and student debt.


But those proposals were a total nonstarter for the Biden administration and congressional Democrats, who argue that the “Limit, Save, Grow Act” amounts to economic hostage-taking, turning the looming debt ceiling deadline into political dynamite.

With dwindling time, McCarthy and the White House are trying to find common ground. In a show of urgency, Biden cut short a foreign trip to return to Washington on Sunday, straight from the G-7 summit in Japan. McCarthy has said he hopes to have a vote next week in the House, suggesting a deal would have to come together in a matter of days.

There’s plenty of ground to make up in the meantime. Conservatives are angling for major spending cuts, as well as a clawback of unspent covid aid funds. Republicans are also pushing for changes to the permitting process for energy projects, to help fossil fuel projects.

This week, McCarthy said the inclusion of work requirements for some social programs was a “red line” that Republicans had to have, though few specifics have emerged.

Several people close to the process also said lawmakers remained divided over the extent and time frame of new restrictions on federal spending. Democrats want spending caps to last roughly two years, after which appropriators could spend more again. But Republicans have sought to extend the duration of the restrictions to as long as a decade, because the longer the constraints are in effect, the more the deficit will be reduced.

Meanwhile, a growing coalition of liberal lawmakers has come out strongly against work requirements, arguing federal food assistance programs or Medicaid are the wrong places to try to cut a deal. Democrats are also pushing for permitting reform, but their priorities revolve around building new transmission lines for clean-energy projects that got money from last year’s Inflation Reduction Act.


White House officials have also floated roughly a dozen tax plans that would cut the deficit as part of a broader budget agreement, including a measure aimed at cryptocurrency transactions and another for large real estate investors. But those overtures were turned down by GOP aides.

As the talks drag on, more lawmakers are distancing themselves from the process – or insisting it stops altogether.

That’s what the House Freedom Caucus did Thursday afternoon. In a statement, the roughly three dozen lawmakers from the conservative caucus said the House has “done its job.” The group was very influential in shaping the “Limit, Save, Grow Act.” But their public opposition to the talks with the White House came as several conservative lawmakers say they privately fear that their priorities will get axed in any bipartisan agreement, especially since McCarthy could still manage to pass a deal without them if enough House Democrats eventually come on board.

In an interview this week after the caucus issued its statement, the group’s leader, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., blasted Senate Democrats for failing to put forward a proposal and demanded the chamber return from recess and get to work on trying to pass its bill. He blasted “hard, radical left-wing senators” for “going out and saying that it has to be a clean debt ceiling or nothing.”

But Perry said a “clean” debt ceiling bill can’t pass the Senate, “or they already would have” done it. He did not go as far as to say the caucus could oppose a deal between Biden and McCarthy, as negotiations continued in secret, out of view of the far-right bloc.

“The Freedom Caucus members are discerning, they are serious about it,” he said. “We understand it’s not going to be perfect.”


Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., another Freedom Caucus member, told The Washington Post that “time is up.” Further delay would make it even more likely that a final agreement is a no-go for his conservative colleagues, he said.

“The longer it goes, they will ramp up the pressure to settle, and we’re just not in a position to settle,” Norman said.

Then there is the left flank of the Democratic Party. Hours before the Freedom Caucus’s announcement, five senators convened a news conference urging Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment and keep borrowing, arguing that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., acknowledged that the 14th Amendment approach was “not perfect.” But he said it was “the best solution we have.”

“Let me be clear, we will not default on our debts, and we will not default on our commitments to environmental justice, communities who fought relentlessly to secure the historic climate and clean-energy investments in the historic Inflation Reduction Act,” Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., said at the news conference.

Sens. John Fetterman, D-Pa., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have also threatened to vote against a deal that includes work requirements, potentially imperiling Democratic support in a narrowly divided Senate. In a statement earlier this week, Fetterman said that he “cannot in good conscience support a debt ceiling proposal that pushes people into poverty.”


On Friday, 66 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus also called on Biden to use executive authority, especially as an alternative to unwanted concessions.

“If the options are either agreeing to major cuts to domestic priorities under the Republican threat of destroying the economy and moving forward to honor America’s debts, we join prominent legal scholars, economists, former budget officials, and a former president in advocating for invoking the 14th Amendment of the Constitution,” caucus members wrote in a letter to Biden.

Meanwhile, House Democrats this week started collecting signatures for a discharge petition to act on legislation that would raise the debt ceiling without other policy changes. The long-shot approach is meant to bypass House Republicans and was endorsed Wednesday by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., even as he continued to show hope for a bipartisan solution.

The Washington Post’s Tony Romm and Jeff Stein contributed to this report.

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