The week started with the Congressional leadership going to the White House to meet with President Biden about the debt ceiling. While there was little visible progress, all sides agreed that their respective staffs would start to meet. It was initially announced that there would be a follow-up meeting at the White House on Friday.
Staffs met at the Capitol on Wednesday and Thursday for several hours both days, and by Thursday it was announced that there would be no meeting of the principals on Friday to give staff more time to work. In my view, this is not a breakthrough, but it is a good sign as a Friday meeting seemed premature from my years of working in DC.
At the conclusion of the White House meeting, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell did say that the U.S. will not default, but at the same time repeated his view that a compromise needed to be reached between the President and Speaker McCarthy. Senate Republicans have held fast in support of their House colleagues. This unity put pressure on the White House to move off their position of insisting that Congress pass a clean debt ceiling increase before serious talks can begin. In addition, more Democrats are speaking up on the need for the White House to work with House Republicans to find a deal.
Staff talks are a positive, and the fact that all sides agreed to postpone—not cancel—the Friday meeting is also a positive. Several areas of compromise, from permitting reform to some sort of spending cap, appear to be on the table. This, too, is positive. The key to watch is parts of a deal that Speaker McCarthy can sell to his Republican House caucus—not easy but clearly critical to a deal that raises the ceiling. As they say: Stay tuned.