Negotiators have wrangled for days over the length and severity of spending limits that would be part of a deal to raise the debt limit — a key condition demanded by Republicans.
Last week, there was renewed optimism that an agreement could be reached as soon as Sunday, at the time of drafting the legislative text, giving the required 72 hours notice and voting this week in the House. Senate leaders plan to call their members early from recess this week. But starting Friday, with Biden out of the country, the talks turned somber.
The White House over the weekend proposed virtually freezing next year’s discretionary spending at this year’s levels — a plan Biden said would save an estimated $1 trillion over a decade compared to baseline projections. But House Republicans, in their own debt limit bill they passed last month, called for restoring discretionary spending to the fiscal 2022 level, which the Congressional Budget Office said would save $3.2 trillion over 10 years. .
Defense spending has become another partisan flashpoint. The White House will impose a near-freeze on defense and nondefense programs. But Republicans are calling for a defense boost, which would force deeper cuts to domestic programs.
If defense and veterans programs are exempt from the cuts that Republicans are seeking, the White House’s proposed freeze at the fiscal 2023 level “would mean that everything would have to be cut by 12 percent” in the coming year, said Joel Friedman, senior vice president of federal fiscal policy at the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.