Playbook: ‘Hours or days’ left for debt ceiling deal

Playbook: ‘Hours or days’ left for debt ceiling deal

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With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill May 24, 2023. (Francis Chung/POLITICO via AP Images)

“It’s hours or days, and I don’t know what,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said today of the timeline for debt ceiling negotiations. | Francis Chung/POLITICO via AP Photo


IS TODAY THE DAY? — Congressional negotiators worked through the night again yesterday evening, hoping to finalize a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Still no dice, but there’s some hope that today’s the day — and some signs that it might be.

Here’s why:

— Negotiators are trying to finalize the text of a deal, the release of which will start the 72-hour review that Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY is giving lawmakers to read and scrutinize the bill before floor action. Fox News’ Chad Pergram reports this morning that leaders are hoping to release the text as early as this afternoon, which would allow the House to vote sometime Tuesday night.

Top GOP negotiator Rep. PATRICK McHENRY (R-N.C.) told reporters shortly after 9 a.m. that such a timeline is possible but not assured. “It’s hours or days, and I don’t know what,” he said, per CNN’s Haley Talbot and NBC’s Ryan Nobles. He added: “We’ve had a long list [of issues] for a long time. What I didn’t anticipate is, we’d have a very short list for a very long time.”

— House Republican leadership is getting ready to whip the vote. As first reported by CNN’s Hill team last night, House Majority Whip TOM EMMER (R-Minn.) held a late-night call yesterday evening to ready his team for an aggressive vote-moving operation. Republicans are still hoping to deliver a majority of the majority. But doing so is going to take some serious arm-twisting.

Emmer’s job will be all the more complicated by the fact that lawmakers are not in town, and most won’t be until the votes are actually scheduled. His operation is planning to whip via phone calls in the days ahead of the House’s return to Washington.

— As he left the White House yesterday for a Memorial Day sojourn, President JOE BIDEN sounded as optimistic as ever: “I hope we’ll have some clearer evidence tonight, before the clock strikes 12, that we have a deal. But it’s very close, and I’m optimistic,” Biden added. And, for once, McCarthy didn’t stop and gaggle with reporters as he left the Capitol last night, underscoring an old Washington rule of thumb: The less that’s said, the closer things are. ICYMI, from Huddle: “How to decipher a Capitol Hill negotiation”

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— The progress comes just hours after the Treasury Department revised its projection for the X-date when the government will run out of cash. The earliest possible default is now on June 5, according to an update from Secretary JANET YELLEN, revised out from June 1.

On one hand, that’s good news for lawmakers who are bumping up against legislative time constraints in the House and Senate, where it could take a week to pass a deal into law even under ideal conditions. On the other hand, more time on Capitol Hill often just leads to more dithering before the hard decisions get made.

— Both sides are still at loggerheads over new work requirements for federal aid programs. The White House was pushed back hard on that demand last night, issuing a statement blasting the right for trying to “tie the most vulnerable up in bureaucratic paperwork, which have shown no benefit for bringing more people into the workforce.”

“House Republicans are threatening to trigger an unprecedented recession and cost the American people over 8 million jobs unless they can take food out of the mouths of hungry Americans,” White House spokesperson ANDREW BATES said in a statement. More on this from Jennifer Haberkorn

FWIW: During an unusual guest-hosting stint on Newsmax last night, Rep. MATT GAETZ (R-Fla.) announced on air that he’d gotten word from his “sources” that expanded work requirements would be included in the deal.

Related reads:

  • “McCarthy’s salesmanship to conservatives to be tested with any debt deal,” by WaPo’s Paul Kane
  • “Sinema enters debt ceiling negotiations,” by Axios’ Hans Nichols and Juliegrace Brufke
  • “Yellen’s Debt Limit Warnings Went Unheeded, Leaving Her to Face Fallout,” by NYT’s Alan Rappeport
  • “Debt ceiling crisis forces Biden to wrestle with limits on his power,” by WaPo’s Toluse Olorunnipa

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

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BIDEN’S SATURDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.

VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SATURDAY — The VP is in New York this morning delivering the commencement address at West Point — the first woman ever to do so. Afterward, she and second gentleman DOUG EMHOFF will return to Washington.

DON’T MISS POLITICO’S HEALTH CARE SUMMIT: The Covid-19 pandemic helped spur innovation in health care, from the wide adoption of telemedicine, health apps and online pharmacies to mRNA vaccines. But what will the next health care innovations look like? Join POLITICO on Wednesday June 7 for our Health Care Summit to explore how tech and innovation are transforming care and the challenges ahead for access and delivery in the United States. REGISTER NOW.


WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 26: U.S. President Joe Biden poses for photographs with guard Andre Jackson (L) and forward Adama Sanogo and fellow members of the University of Connecticut NCAA Division I men's basketball national championship team in the East Room of the White House on May 26, 2023 in Washington, DC. Behind outstanding performances by Sanogo and guard Jordan Hawkins, the Huskies defeated San Diego State 76-58 to win their fifth national championship. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Pin

President Joe Biden welcomes the University of Connecticut men’s basketball national champions to the White House yesterday. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images



1. HAPPENING TODAY: “Texas House to Vote Saturday on Impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton,” by KXAS-TV’s Acacia Coronado, Jim Vertuno and Jake Bleiberg: KENPAXTON, a 60-year-old Republican, finds himself on the brink of impeachment after years of scandal, criminal charges and corruption accusations. The House will consider a resolution calling for Paxton’s impeachment at 1 p.m.”

Background reading: “How Fighting for Conservative Causes Has Helped Ken Paxton Survive Legal Woes,” by NYT’s J. David Goodman in Austin: “With the Texas House set to vote on his impeachment, Mr. Paxton is counting on political support that he’s amassed as a Republican legal firebrand.”

2. KNOCK-ON EFFECTS: “Debt limit derails the rest of Congress’ must-pass agenda,” by Jordain Carney and Sarah Ferris: “Spending packages. The farm bill. Defense legislation. … [T]he calamitous consequences of debt default are so all-consuming that lawmakers’ other deadlines — each with potentially terrible effects of their own — seem far away, at least for the moment.”

3. LATEST IN SOUTH CAROLINA: “Judge blocks SC’s 6-week abortion ban, punting legal case to all-male Supreme Court,” by The State’s Joseph Bustos: “South Carolina’s new six-week abortion ban is on hold, after a judge on Friday blocked the law from being enforced, sending the legal challenge back to the state Supreme Court to decide for the second time whether the ban is constitutional.”

4. DeSANTIS GOES NATIONAL: “Presidential hopeful DeSantis inspires push to make book bans easier in Republican-controlled states,” by AP’s Andrew DeMillo, Anthony Izaguirre and Nicholas Riccardi: “While efforts to ban books or censor education material have come up sporadically over the years, critics and supporters credit [Florida Gov. RON] DeSANTIS with inspiring a new wave of legislation in other conservative states to regulate the books available in schools — and sometimes even in public libraries.”

Related reads: “Ron DeSantis upended education in Florida. He’s coming for your state next,” by Bianca Quilantan … “DeSantis Steps Up Attacks on Trump, Hitting Him on Crime and Covid,” by NYT’s Neil Vigdor, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Nehamas

5. CORRECTING THE RECORD: “Nikki Haley let the Confederate flag fly until a massacre forced her hand,” by WaPo’s Michael Kranish in Columbia, S.C.: “[A] Washington Post review of [NIKKI] HALEY’s actions in the five years before the massacre found that she repeatedly dismissed efforts to remove the flag, mollified Confederate heritage groups whose influence remained a powerful force, and did not hold substantive discussions with Black leaders who wanted to remove the flag. Months before the mass killing that changed her position, her reelection campaign had called a proposal by her Democratic opponent to remove the flag ‘desperate and irresponsible.’”

6. LESS THAN MEETS THE EYE: “On the road with the Republican ‘persuasion’ candidates,” by Semafor’s Dave Weigel in Rye, N.H.: “Haley and South Carolina Sen. TIM SCOTT, who both stumped in New Hampshire this week … are trying to position themselves as the GOP’s most electable options — non-white, Generation Xers who Democrats are scared to run against. … On the trail though, Scott and Haley’s differences from the frontrunners are often more tell than show. In key ways, they’re leaning into some of the same tendencies and topics. … There are still some key differences between the persuaders and the more MAGA wing, especially on foreign policy and the former president’s efforts to overturn the election.”

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7. BATTLE FOR THE SENATE: “How Republicans in California could decide Dianne Feinstein’s successor,” by Steve Shepard: “California Republicans are such a distinct minority group in the blue state — they make up about a third of the electorate — that, this go around, things could get weird. The race to replace [Sen. DIANNE] FEINSTEIN could end up as a Democrat-on-Democrat contest, and Republicans could wind up swinging the whole election. It’s also not clear who might benefit. [Rep. KATIE] PORTER’s campaign seems obsessed with this idea.”

8. SCOTUS WATCH: “As Supreme Court turns toward end of term, Americans battling the government are winning,” by USA Today’s John Fritze: “[T]he justices have so far sided with individual plaintiffs and businesses against the government in roughly seven of 10 non-criminal cases. While that may not be surprising for a court on which conservatives hold a 6-3 advantage, many of the early opinions have also drawn at least some support from the liberal wing.”

9. DEEP DIVE: “Reparations Are a Financial Quandary. For Democrats, They’re a Political One, Too,” by NYT’s Trip Gabriel, Maya King, Kurtis Lee and Shawn Hubler: “Democratic officials had for years nodded approvingly at the idea of reparations as a far-off ideal to close the racial wealth gap, a position that appealed to many Black voters, who are the party’s most loyal constituency. But the headline-grabbing recommendations by lawmakers and local and state task forces are forcing Democratic leaders to wrestle with financial and political implications sooner than many would have liked.”

CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker —15 funnies

A political cartoon is pictured of Democrats mistakenly thinking they've buried Donald Trump.Pin

Rivers – Cagle Cartoons

GREAT WEEKEND READS, guest-curated this week by Franklin Foer, staff writer at The Atlantic and author of “The Last Politician,” an insider account of the Biden presidency, to be published in September:

“Ron DeSantis vs. the ‘Woke Mind Virus,’” by NYT’s Michelle Goldberg

“The Revolution No One Wanted,” London Review of Books: “Alex de Waal writes about Sudan.”

“The global olive grove – How climate change is challenging Europe’s olive garden,” by Chartbook’s Adam Tooze

“The Limits of Language,” by Elaine Blair in The New York Review of Books: “In the newsroom and in Hollywood, a new vernacular is emerging to describe sexual assault.”

“Colorado’s Ingenious Idea for Solving the Housing Crisis,” by The Atlantic’s Jerusalem Demsas: “And why local governments hate it.”

“My Daughter’s Future Was Taken From Her, and From Us,” by NYT’s Sarah Wildman

“On ‘Succession,’ if You’re Eating, You’re Losing,” by NYT’s Tejal Rao: “When it comes to the high-powered Roy dynasty, food is for the weak and striving.”

— From the archives: “Martin Amis, The Art of Fiction No. 151,” interviewed by Francesca Riviere in The Paris Review, spring 1998.

GET READY FOR GLOBAL TECH DAY: Join POLITICO Live as we launch our first Global Tech Day alongside London Tech Week on Thursday, June 15. Register now for continuing updates and to be a part of this momentous and program-packed day! From the blockchain, to AI, and autonomous vehicles, technology is changing how power is exercised around the world, so who will write the rules? REGISTER HERE.


Jill Biden and Angel Reese put their differences behind them.

Sa’Myah Smith fainted at the White House.

Boris Johnson stopped by Kramers.

ENGAGED — Catherine Wall, chief of staff at the DCCC, and Will Stockton, VP at 4C Partners, got engaged last night on the National Mall. They met while working on Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire. Pic

WEDDING — Shaina Shealy and Benjamin Glickstein, via NYT: “She is now a senior producer at the [Snap Judgment podcast] studios. … He is the director of communications for the WateReuse Association, a trade group in Alexandria, Va., dedicated to water recycling. … The two were married on May 13 in front of 190 guests at the Shealy family farm, a working cattle ranch in Pell City, Ala.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Henry Kissinger (1-0-0) … Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) … David Plouffe … NYT’s Campbell Robertson and Noam Scheiber … former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) … AP’s Andrew Harnik … former Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) … Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson … Dignari’s Megan McCrink Cary O’Reilly … POLITICO’s Randy Lemmerman and Cy ZaneskiKat Dimenstein of General Atomics … Rasheedah Thomas of Emerald Digital Solutions … Brigid Schulte of New America … PhRMA’s Andrew Powaleny Kelsey BaronAndrew SeidmanJenny DruckerDrew ColeAndrew Overton … WaPo’s Stefanie Weishaupt PrelesnikDevan Barber … NBC’s Cynthia McFadden

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Speaker Kevin McCarthy … Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) … Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) … Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and William Ostan. Panel: Charlie Hurt, Annmarie Hordern, Michael Allen and Kevin Walling.

CBS “Face the Nation”: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries … Brad Smith … Austan Goolsbee … Chris Krebs.

CNN “State of the Union”: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu … Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) … Minnesota AG Keith Ellison. Panel: Mia Love, Bakari Sellers, Scott Jennings and Ashley Allison.

MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) … Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) … Asa Hutchinson … Shai Akabas … Bharat Ramamurti.

NBC “Meet the Press”: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) … Roy Blunt. SCOTUS clerk panel: Andrew Crespo and Jennifer Mascott. Panel: Joan Biskupic, Laura Jarrett, Dahlia Lithwick and Nina Totenberg.

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

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