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McCarthy says negotiators ‘made progress’ but no deal as default deadline nears

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(WASHINGTON) — With potential default just six days away, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy arrived at the Capitol Friday telling reporters he remained optimistic despite no deal in hand.

McCarthy said negotiators “made progress” overnight but wouldn’t get into specifics of the framework being discussed.

“And I’m gonna work as hard as we can to try to get this done, get more progress today and finish the job,” the speaker told reporters. “I’m a total optimist.”

But when asked if they could reach a deal on Friday, McCarthy’s demurred.

“Look, I’m gonna work as hard as I can. As soon as we get a deal, we’re gonna get a deal but it has to be worthy of the American people,” he said.

President Joe Biden, too, said progress was being made on Thursday.

“I’ve made it clear time and again: Defaulting on our national debt is not an option,” Biden said.

He added the negotiations with McCarthy are “about the outlines of what the budget will look like, not about default. It’s about competing visions for America.”

Though once an agreement is reached, significant legislative hurdles remain in getting it passed before June 1 — the date Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen maintains the U.S. could start to run out of cash to pay all its bills.

McCarthy is pledging to give House members 72 hours to review the bill before bringing it to the floor for a vote. If it passes, it will go the Senate, where it would take just one lawmaker to delay approval for up to a week.

Also at issue is potential opposition from the wings of both parties. Several progressive Democrats have expressed frustration too much ground may be conceded to Republicans, whole conservative hardliners with the House Freedom Caucus are encouraging McCarthy to “hold the line” on their spending demands.

McCarthy on Friday appeared to defend the negotiations against growing dissatisfaction from the far right of his party.

“You’re talking to people who don’t know what’s in the deal,” he said when asked about the House Freedom Caucus members urging him to stop negotiations altogether.

“So I’m not concerned about anybody making any comments right now about what they think is in or not in. Whenever we come to an agreement, we’ll make sure we will first brief our entire conference,” he added.

ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott has reported negotiators are eyeing a possible deal to raise the debt limit through 2024, increase defense spending and veteran spending for two years while also clawing back unspent COVID-19 funds.

Top Republican negotiator Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana said late Thursday work requirements was a key sticking point.

“We have a lot of hang-ups but that’s one of the bigger issues we’re dealing with,” Graves said.

When asked if they can get a deal by this weekend, Graves said, “We’re not going to stop negotiating. We’re not going to stop. The speaker has made clear this is a priority.”

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