A make-or-break meeting this week

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With an assist from Daniella Diaz

WARNING, CLIFF AHEAD — It’s debt-limit-meeting-eve in Washington, where Republicans and Democrats remain entrenched in their positions on raising the nation’s borrowing limit to avoid an unprecedented default.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday that there are “no good options” for the U.S. to avoid an economic “calamity” if lawmakers on Capitol Hill can’t strike a deal with the White House in the next few weeks to raise the nation’s debt limit. She voiced her warning on on ABC’s “This Week.”

President Joe Biden’s meeting tomorrow with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will be the first meaty discussions between McCarthy and Biden in months.

And anyone hoping that Biden and McConnell, who have cut multiple deals together, could be the key to getting out of this will be sorely disappointed. As Burgess and Olivia report this morning, McConnell told Biden in a call last week that he won’t be coming to the rescue: “in the end, the deal will be made between McCarthy and Biden,” he said in an interview.

After two years of being on the opposite sides of, well, nearly everything, McConnell and McCarthy are on the same page. In array, some might say.

House Republicans passed a bill that would raise the debt limit, but also includes deep cuts to federal spending which couldn’t win enough votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Biden has repeatedly said he’ll only talk spending cuts with the debt limit off the table.

Yellen reiterated the same on Sunday, saying “It’s appropriate to have conversations about budget, about spending priorities . . . but we do need to raise the debt ceiling to avoid economic calamity.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) led a letter signed by 43 GOP Senators, vowing that they “will not be voting for cloture on any bill that raises the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budget reforms.”

Jeffries, for his part, said he isn’t interested in a short term punt or 30-day extension on the debt ceiling. But he also didn’t draw a hard line ruling it out (though there is little support for it in the Senate), saying “we have to avoid default, period, full stop.”

“I don’t think the responsible thing to do is kick the can down the road,” Jeffries told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

When pressed on if Congressional Democrats would follow Biden’s lead if he strikes a deal with McCarthy, Jeffries said he is in “lockstep right now” with the president, but that “ultimately, everyone evaluates on the merits of any particular piece of legislation that is presented to us.”

And as questions about invoking the 14th amendment swirl, Yellen warned against getting to “the point where we need to consider whether the president can go on issuing debt,” saying it would trigger “a constitutional crisis.” During the 2011 debt limit, crisis lawyers at the Justice Department concluded that they didn’t think the president truly had the unilateral authority to issue new debt. And yet, it’s still buzzing around Washington.

Yellen noted on Sunday that beating the deadline won’t save the U.S. from all the potential pain. She said that even if a default is ultimately averted, the perception of the threat and flirtation with the deadline means the U.S. is “likely to see financial market consequences.”

RELATED READS: We Hit the Debt Limit. What Happens Now?, from Jeanna Smialek and Ashley Wu at The New York Times; Why the 14th Amendment Is Being Cited in the Debt Ceiling Debate, from Linda Qiu at The New York Times

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Monday, May 8, where there’s gotta be some high points among the debt limit doom and gloom.

HUDDLE WEEKLY MOST CLICKED Tina Smith’s (D-Minn.) tweet backing Colin Allred (and avoiding Sen. Ted Cruz in the hallways) topped the list, followed by the Congressional Data Coalition’s spreadsheet of House earmark requests.

BORDER ACTION — House Republicans’ big border security bill hits the House floor this week, a combination of bills from the House Judiciary and House Homeland Security committees. Final passage is slated for later this week, when a pandemic-era tool used to expel millions of migrants, known as Title 42, is set to expire.

House GOP leadership is working hard (and working the phones) to get its conference in line behind the measure. The bill was put together with input from many corners of the conference, and represents a major campaign pledge for many members. It will be in the House Rules Committee on Tuesday and we’ll have much more on the border push later this week.

Related reads: Biden’s New Immigration Policy Cements End of Liberal Asylum Rules, from Michelle Hackman at The Wall Street Journal; Migrant Child Labor Debate in Congress Becomes Mired in Immigration Fight, from Karoun Demirjian and Hannah Dreier at The New York Times

FIRST IN HUDDLE: MATERNAL CARE CRISIS? — Reps. Young Kim (R-Calif.) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Maternity Care Caucus co-chairs, have written a letter obtained by Huddle to the Health Resources and Services Administration to ask for data on the effectiveness of the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline one year after the program started. This comes as recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed maternal mortality rates skyrocketed in 2021.

NOT EXTINCT — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is keeping quiet about his plans for 2024, but Republicans don’t want to take any chances. Despite West Virginia’s swing to the right, which leaves Manchin the odd man out, his track record of winning — he hasn’t lost a race since the 1990s — means the GOP is hoping he’ll bow out so that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice or Rep. Alex Mooney don’t have to face him. Holly Otterbein and Ally Mutnick write from White Sulphur Springs on Manchin’s staying power and the cash already flowing to try and box him out.

ICYMI: NDAA DELAYED — The Senate Armed Services Committee is changing its timeline for consideration of the annual defense policy bill to clear the deck for debt limit negotiations. Connor O’Brien and Joe Gould report that SASC’s June 1 deadline to get the bill through committee collided with the Treasury Department’s X-date, so the committee is now aiming for mid-June.

The House Armed Services Committee is still on track to mark up its version of the NDAA on May 23. The panel’s seven subcommittees will mark up their portions of the defense bill this week.


Fore!... There’s plenty of current and former members of Congress on this list from Golf Digest, plus plenty of staffers.

Gone but not forgotten… Former Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his attempt to bring a loaded 9 mm handgun with him as he boarded a plane at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in April of last year (not to be confused with the time in 2021 he was stopped while boarding at Asheville Regional Airport with an unloaded gun). He was fined $250.


After Mass Killings in Texas, Frustration but No Action on Guns, from J. David Goodman, Adam Goldman, Edgar Sandoval and David Montgomery at The New York Times

Biden proposes airlines cover passenger expenses for canceled flights, from Ian Duncan at The Washington Post

Jon Tester wanted to soften hemp regulations and turned to industry officials to help craft the bill, from Daniel Lippman and Holly Otterbein

‘What happens if I am killed?’ Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks out about threats, from Hunter Woodall at the Star Tribune


The House is out.

The Senate is out.


A quiet Monday before the storm.


FRIDAY’S WINNER: Joe Bookman correctly answered that Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist in 1870, and Anna Jarvis, near the turn of the 20th century, both advocated for a day to honor women and mothers. Jarvis started a campaign that resulted in President Woodrow Wilson declaring it a holiday in 1914.

TODAY’S QUESTION: The U.S. Treasury building first appeared on currency — the $10 bill — in what year?

The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected]

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Follow Katherine on Twitter @ktullymcmanus