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This reporting from the Washington Post this morning makes me very pessimistic about any debt ceiling deal until after the first checks DON’T go out on June 1 or whenever.

“During a closed meeting Tuesday morning at a GOP hangout a block from the U.S. Capitol,” the Post reported “House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made a pointed plea: Do not break ranks over the debt ceiling crisis. Ahead of another round of negotiations with the White House, McCarthy told Republicans they had the upper hand in the discussions and encouraged his members to show their support for colleagues facing tough reelection bids next year as a sign of unity, according to two people in attendance, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private talk. McCarthy urged members to make sure vulnerable lawmakers would have plenty of campaign money from GOP coffers — even pledging that they would not be outraised by their opponents in the 2024 election cycle.”

The Republican position actually seems to be hardening as negotiations go on. “House Republicans do appear willing to drop some provisions in a bill the chamber approved last month to raise the debt ceiling,” the Post wrote, “especially a call for Biden to abandon his student loan forgiveness program and to cancel some green energy tax credits. But they’re also determined to push for more concessions that weren’t even in that legislation. Not only have they ruled out Biden’s proposals to increase revenue by closing tax loopholes-—traditionally a part of bipartisan deals to lower the deficit-—but they are also insisting on increasing spending on the military, homeland security, and veterans services while cutting funds for domestic programs. That would be a change from how a similar standoff was resolved in 2011 when the last bipartisan bill to raise the debt limit and cut spending passed — the Budget Control Act, which affected defense and nondefense budgets equally.” Asked Tuesday evening what Republicans were offering to get Democratic votes, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) gave a brief answer: “The debt ceiling.” Added Rep Garret Graves (R-LA) “That’s what they’re getting.”

On the Democratic side, positions on some issues also seem to be hardening. The White House has said Biden would flatly reject a proposal that imposes work requirements on federal health care programs, or any effort to repeal the president’s signature Inflation Reduction Act legislation. Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic leader, told reporters that a freeze at 2023 spending levels would be a “reasonable” compromise. Jeffries, who has opposed work requirements, said any accord that requires Democratic votes must reflect Democratic priorities. Democrats further to the left than Jeffries declared their opposition to cutting spending on domestic social programs while increasing the Pentagon budget as Republicans have proposed.

And this morning I’ve got an additional concern: some ultra-conservative Republicans are questioning estimates by the Treasury for when the federal government won’t be able to pay its bills. For example, Representative Chip Roy of Texas has called it a “manufactured crisis” to force Republicans into stepping back from some demands. “The fact is, we’re going to have cash in June. The fact is, we’re not going to default on our debt. That’s just completely false. We’ve got the money to do it,” Roy said. “So everybody just needs to be patient. Let us work through it.” Or this from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who told reporters “I don’t believe that the first of a month is a real deadline,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) “But she [Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen] wanders out of some backroom in the White House with a Ouija board under her arm telling us the first of the month is the number. And we’re supposed to take that as some sort of article of faith.”

To me, it sounds increasingly likely that it will take a couple of days when checks are supposed to go but don’t in order to force a compromise.

The two sides are to resume talks today, May 24, at noon Washington time.