House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) said Monday that he was open to the idea of freezing spending at current levels to get a deal on the debt ceiling — an idea President Biden supports but sure to upset liberals in Jeffries’ own Democratic Caucus.
“As part of the effort to find common ground we are willing to consider freezing spending,” Jeffries told reporters outside the Capitol. “That is not an extreme proposal. That is a reasonable suggestion. “
Amid talks with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the White House offered Republicans to freeze federal spending at current, fiscal year 2023 levels — a proposal McCarthy rejected.
“The freeze is not so small; a freeze costs the same amount,” McCarthy said Monday night, shortly after he met with Biden at the White House to discuss a path forward.
The spending caps have emerged as a focal point in high-stakes negotiations to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a government default, which the Treasury Department has warned could happen as soon as June 1. .
Behind McCarthy, Republicans insisted on higher spending as a condition for raising the debt ceiling, using the threat of default to force Biden to accept their terms.
House Republicans passed a debt ceiling package last month that would cut spending in fiscal 2024 back to fiscal 2022 levels — a reduction estimated to be nearly $130 billion below 2023 levels. They noted that 2022 That spending level was as recently as December, when Congress passed a massive government funding bill that established the current level through 2023.
“It was not a big wound; it was the same money we spent five months ago,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), head of the hardline Freedom Caucus, whose members have warned they won’t participate in anything but a watered-down version of the House. – passed bill.
“What we’re willing to accept is what we passed last month,” Perry added. “That’s why we passed on it.”
Underscoring the dangers facing Democratic leaders, many liberals are fighting to increase federal spending, warning that the cuts will harm programs that benefit the most vulnerable populations.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), a staunch liberal, praised Biden on Monday for pushing back against what she described as “some very extreme demands” from Republicans. But he also warned that there are limits to how far Biden can compromise, and accepting the cuts “would be problematic” for progressives.
“We will not negotiate through the debt ceiling for this reason,” he said.
Jeffries acknowledged the unpopularity of the spending freeze, which Democrats describe as a cut when inflation is the cause.
“Any proposal that potentially offers a spending freeze is not a proposal that is put in the public domain on the left,” Jeffries said. “That’s an inherently rational effort to find common ground in a divided government situation.”
McCarthy and Biden disagreed during their meeting at the White House on Monday. But McCarthy said the sides were moving “closer” to an agreement. And staff-level negotiations are expected to continue into Monday night.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.