President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached an “agreement in principle” to raise the nation’s legal debt ceiling late Saturday. They raced to strike a deal to limit federal spending and avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default.
However, the agreement risks angering both Democratic and Republican sides with the concessions made to compromise. Negotiators agreed to some Republican demands for increased work requirements for recipients of food stamps that had sparked an uproar from House Democrats as a nonstarter.
Support from both parties will be needed to win congressional approval next week before the government’s projected June 5 debt default.
The Democratic president and Republican speaker reached the agreement after the two spoke earlier Saturday evening by phone. The country and the world have been watching and waiting for a resolution to a political standoff that threatened the U.S. and global economies.
“The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want,” Biden said in a statement late Saturday night. “That’s the responsibility of governing,” he said.
Biden called the debt ceiling agreement “good news for the American people. Because it prevents what could have been a catastrophic default and would have led to an economic recession, retirement accounts devastated, and millions of jobs lost.”
McCarthy in brief remarks at the Capitol said that “we still have a lot of work to do.”
But the Republican speaker said: “I believe this is an agreement in principle that’s worthy of the American people.”
With the outlines of a deal in place, the legislative package could be drafted. Shared with lawmakers in time for House votes as soon as Wednesday, and later in the Senate.
Central to the package is a two-year budget deal that would hold spending flat for 2024. And increase it by 1% for 2025 in exchange for raising the debt limit for two years, pushing the volatile political issue past the next presidential election.
Driving hard for a deal to impose tougher work requirements on government aid recipients, Republicans achieved some but not all of what they wanted. The agreement would raise the age for existing work requirements on able-bodied adults without children from 49 to 54, but Biden was able to secure waivers for veterans and the homeless.
The two sides had also reached for an ambitious overhaul of federal permitting to ease development of energy projects and transmission lines. Instead, the agreement would put in place changes in the landmark 1970s’ National Environmental Policy Act that will designate “a single lead agency” to develop environmental reviews, in hopes of streamlining the process.