McCarthy defends debt ceiling deal, predicts Democrats will join GOP in passing it to avert default

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(WASHINGTON) — A bipartisan majority of Congress will approve a compromise in the coming days to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and avert a historic default that could upend the economy while enforcing some limits on government spending, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy predicted on Sunday.

McCarthy, flanked by the two Republican negotiators who worked with him on brokering a debt and spending deal with the White House, spoke with reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill on Sunday.

He offered some specifics about the agreement with President Joe Biden while pushing back on already-emerging criticism from his party’s right flank that Republicans did not exact enough concessions on the federal government’s budget.

“I think people will look back and say, ‘Well I didn’t get exactly what I wanted.’ But there’s something in here that — it shouldn’t be about you, it should be about America,” McCarthy said. “America believes that we have spent too much, so this spends less.”

The bill “doesn’t get everything everybody wanted,” he acknowledged, “but that’s, in divided government, that’s what we end up with.”

McCarthy said he would speak with Biden again later Sunday, to review the finalized language of the legislation, and then the text will be posted publicly, starting a 72-hour clock that he has committed to members for reading the bill before a vote on Wednesday.

“This is a good, strong bill that a majority of Republicans will vote for,” the speaker told ABC News’ Trish Turner.

And with Biden’s backing, “I expect his party to be supportive as well,” McCarthy said.

While McCarthy and Reps. Garret Graves and Patrick McHenry, of Louisiana and North Carolina, deferred some details of the debt bill to the final text, expected to be released Sunday afternoon, they touted what they saw as major wins.

“This is the most conservative spending package in my service in Congress,” McHenry, a 10-term representative, said.

McCarthy again stressed that Republicans had forced Biden to reverse his monthslong insistence that the White House would only negotiate on the budget separate from any increase on the debt, with Democrats likening talks with Republicans under the threat of default to economic hostage-taking.

“It wasn’t until the final two weeks that we were really able to sit down,” McCarthy said.

The clock was ticking the whole time: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the federal government will run out of money to pay all of its bills by June 5 unless its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit is raised.

Such a default would risk undermining the credit of the U.S., which is a lynchpin of the international economy, and could delay payments on a swath of services including Social Security.

On Sunday, the speaker repeatedly praised both Graves and McHenry and Biden’s team of “professional,” “smart” and “tough” negotiators.

“The negotiations were intense, they were quite challenging,” McHenry told reporters. “The outcome of that is a fundamental shift in the spending trajectory in Washington.”

ABC News has previously reported that, according to sources familiar, the agreement is a two-year budget deal that would also separately raise the debt limit for two years while keeping non-defense spending roughly flat with current levels in fiscal year 2024 and increasing by 1% in 2025.

The agreement would phase in new work requirements for recipients of SNAP benefits — specifically time limits on the benefits for people up to age 54, excluding veterans and homeless people. Those new requirements would sunset in 2030, sources said.

The bill would fully fund medical care for veterans, including an extension of funding in the PACT Act, one source said.

And the deal would streamline the review process for certain energy projects.

McCarthy, Graves and McHenry on Sunday pointed to changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, in particular, and said that while government spending on defense and veterans would increase under the deal, other appropriations would fall below the 2022 level.

Ultimately, McCarthy and his negotiators said, Republicans could not enforce a more sweeping, 10-year spending reduction into the next Congress because future lawmakers would simply be able to vote to undue it.

McHenry said that the bill instead lays out, as one example, $704 billion in annual non-defense discretionary government spending while “hold[ing] vets harmless” — a rebuke of Democratic criticism that Republicans were seeking spending cuts that could affect vets.

The speaker was pressed several times by reporters on comments by some House Republicans that the debt deal doesn’t go far enough, especially in light of the Limit, Save, Grow Act that was passed along party lines in the House last month.

“This ‘deal’ is insanity. … Not gonna vote to bankrupt our country. The American people deserve better,” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., tweeted.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., likewise shared his displeasure on social media. “Conservatives have been sold out once again!” he tweeted.

McCarthy played down reports of in-fighting, insisting more than 95% of his conference had been “overwhelmingly excited” about the compromise during an earlier conference call.

“Let’s let the members actually read the bill before they make a decision and go forward,” he told reporters.

He also brushed off the potential risk of a snap vote to boot him from the speakership, which any single member could trigger under an earlier deal McCarthy made to win the gavel in January.

“Not at all,” he said when asked if he was worried about such a move, known as a motion to vacate.

The GOP holds only a narrow majority in the House right now. Passing a debt compromise theoretically would require at least a bare majority of Republicans — with enough Democrats to make up for any conservative defections.

In a “dear colleague” letter shared Sunday morning, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told Democrats that the Biden administration would brief them later in the day on the terms of the deal.

Jeffries made no commitments about the scope of his caucus’ support but struck an optimistic tone on raising the borrowing limit: “I am thankful to President Biden for his leadership in averting a devastating default and look forward to our collective discussion,” he wrote.

McCarthy told reporters that he has spoken to Jeffries multiple times and spoke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday.

The speaker first announced a deal in principle on Saturday night, after weeks of talks with Democrats and a seesawing tone from both sides on the ultimate fate of any agreement.

In a brief statement Saturday, Biden said their compromise was “an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone.”

“I strongly urge both chambers to pass the agreement right away,” the president said.

ABC News’ Lauren Peller contributed to this report.

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McCarthy announces tentative debt limit deal with White House

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(WASHINGTON) — Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced at a brief presser on Saturday night that House Republicans and the White House have reached a tentative deal to raise the federal government’s debt limit, ending a monthslong stalemate.

“I just got off the phone with the president — I talked to him twice today — and after weeks of negotiations, we have come to an agreement in principle,” McCarthy said, emerging from his office shortly after 9 p.m. ET on Saturday. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

McCarthy, who did not take any questions from the press, laid out next steps for the deal, including plans to post the text on Sunday and vote on the bill on Wednesday.

“I expect to finish the writing of the bill, checking in with the White House and speaking to the president again tomorrow afternoon and then posting the text of it tomorrow and be voting on it on Wednesday,” he said.

The speaker was light on specific details regarding the bill, instead calling it “an agreement in principle that’s worthy of the American people.”

“It has historically reductions in spending, consequential reforms that will lift people out of poverty into the workforce, reign in government overreach. There are no new taxes, no government programs,” McCarthy said.

The agreement is a two-year budget deal that would also separately raise the debt limit for two years, sources familiar with the negotiations told ABC News.

Sources said the budget deal would keep non-defense spending roughly flat with current levels in fiscal year 2024, increasing by 1% in 2025.

One source said the negotiating team is now working on finalizing bill text and a term sheet. House Democrats are invited to a members-only White House briefing on Sunday at 5 p.m., per one source.

The agreement phases in new work requirements for recipients of SNAP benefits — specifically time limits on the benefits for people up to age 54, excluding veterans and homeless people. Those new requirements would sunset in 2030, sources said.

There are no changes to Medicaid requirements, sources added.

The agreement also fully funds medical care for veterans, including an extension of funding in the PACT Act, one source said. And it would streamline the review process for certain energy projects.

President Joe Biden issued a statement on the agreement in principle, calling it “an important step forward” and a “compromise” as the White House and Congress continue to finalize the text of the bill.

“It is an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone. And, the agreement protects my and Congressional Democrats’ key priorities and legislative accomplishments,” Biden said.

“The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want. That’s the responsibility of governing,” he said.

Biden said the deal will prevent “what could have been a catastrophic default and would have led to an economic recession, retirement accounts devastated, and millions of jobs lost” — though the deal will have to pass both chambers of Congress and get to his desk by June 5 to do so.

Given the tight timeline, Biden said work would continue between both sides and “I strongly urge both chambers to pass the agreement right away.”

The breakthrough on the government’s debt and spending comes just days before the so-called “X-date” when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned the U.S. would run out of cash to pay all of its bills on time.

A tentative deal will have to pass the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate.

Time is of the essence to push the deal through before potential default. McCarthy has pledged to give House members 72 hours to review the legislation before a vote. And in the Senate, it would only take one lawmaker to possibly delay approval for up to a week.

Wings from both parties expressed dissatisfaction during talks and encouraged their respective leaders to stand their ground.

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative hardliners who held up McCarthy’s ascension to the speakership, signaled opposition to anything other than the Limit, Save, Grow Act passed in the House last month and said a major overhaul of the government’s spending is needed.

On the other side of the aisle, several progressive Democrats warned they would push back on any deal that gave too many concessions to Republicans, arguing that negotiating on the budget with default looming amounted to economic hostage-taking by the GOP.

The fight over the debt ceiling has threatened to sink the economy.

Economists have warned the U.S. being unable to fulfill financial obligations would put millions of jobs at risk, increase unemployment levels and lead to higher prices for everyday items.

A default could also result in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid payments — as well as military pay and veterans benefits — going unpaid or being delayed.

As the negotiations came down to the wire, Americans who depend on those checks expressed growing concern and anxiety surrounding their ability to pay rent, buy groceries and other daily expenses if default were to occur.

Air Force veteran Jacob Thomas in Minneapolis told ABC News’ Elizabeth Schulze the uncertainty over default was already hitting American military families.

“Even if a deal is reached, everything winds up being okay next week, that still means that right now, families and veterans across the country are having to think about what does it mean for me to have to ration my current paycheck or my current disability paycheck,” Thomas said.

ABC News’ Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Treasury extends potential debt default deadline to June 5

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(WASHINGTON) — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday issued a new letter to Congress stating the government won’t begin to run out of money to pay its bills until June 5 — slightly later than the agency’s previous prediction of as soon as June 1.

“Based on the most recent available data, we now estimate that Treasury will have insufficient resources to satisfy the government’s obligations if Congress has not raised or suspended the debt limit by June 5,” Yellen wrote.

The update buys much-needed time for negotiators to hammer out a deal to raise the debt limit and avoid a disastrous default. The so-called “X-date” has always been fluid, based on daily federal tax revenues and expenditures.

This letter comes as the Treasury Department’s cash reserves are running dangerously low.

New Treasury data shows its cash balance dwindled to just $39 billion at the end of the day yesterday. This is down from roughly $60 billion at the end of last week – and $316 billion at the start of the month.

The Treasury also released data showing it holds roughly $67 billion in “extraordinary measures” it can use.

In her letter, Yellen noted that more than $130 billion of payments are scheduled in the first two days of June, including to Veterans and Social Security and Medicare recipients.

“These payments will leave Treasury with an extremely low level of resources,” she wrote.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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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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DeSantis campaign rakes in $8.2 million in the first 24 hours of his presidential launch

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(WASHINGTON) — What started as a rocky presidential campaign launch marred with technical issues ended with a massive roll-in of cash for the first 24 hours of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign.

DeSantis raised $8.2 million in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, according to sources familiar with the fundraising. The governor’s spokesman, Bryan Griffin, later confirmed the figure to ABC News.

DeSantis’ campaign team aimed to raise $8-10 million in donations during the first 24 hours of the campaign, two sources confirmed to ABC News.

The amount DeSantis raised surpassed the $6.3 million President Joe Biden raised in the first 24 hours of his presidential launch in 2019.

The governor had summoned donors and fundraisers to the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami, Florida, for a two-day event that started on the same day as his campaign launch for president, which included dropping a campaign video announcing his run ahead of DeSantis taking to Twitter Spaces to discuss his run with Twitter CEO and billionaire Elon Musk. The rocky Twitter Spaces rollout did not deter from the excitement and support donors inside the Miami event had for DeSantis’ campaign, with attendees describing the event as “filled with a ton of energy.”

Although the governor and his wife, Casey DeSantis, did not attend the first day of the donor event, the pair appeared on the second day, arriving sometime around noon, according to a source familiar with the governor’s arrival. People who were in attendance said that they thought that the governor was “personable” and “fun.”

Sources who attended the fundraising event told ABC News that the governor and his wife were meeting with donors and jumping on calls to raise money for the campaign.

Even with the large sum of money raised within the first 24 hours of DeSantis’ campaign, other organizations plan to support the governor’s 2024 run.

The pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down will use $100 million of its $200 million budget on voter outreach and field operations to support DeSantis’ presidential run financially.

The strong fundraising haul may be a boon to the campaign after its Wednesday launch, which was plagued by technical issues to the point that a link to a new Twitter Space needed to be created.

DeSantis’ next campaign-related event will be next week in Iowa where he’ll hold his campaign kick off.

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Former Oath Keeper sentenced for role in Jan. 6 Capitol attack

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(WASHINGTON) — A former leading member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group was sentenced Friday to eight years and six months in prison for her role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Jessica Watkins led a small group into the Capitol building, but prosecutors said her actions enabled many more to ultimately disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Struggling to express her remorse through her tears, Watkins apologized before the court.

“My actions and behaviors on that fateful day were wrong and — as I now understand — criminal,” she said.

Watkins’ sentencing follows two lengthy prison terms handed down this week to Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and one of his chief lieutenants, Kelly Meggs. Rhodes on Thursday received the longest sentence of any Jan. 6 defendant to date at 18 years, while Meggs was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Last November, Watkins was found guilty of conspiring to obstruct the certification of the 2020 election and actual obstruction of that proceeding. Unlike Rhodes and Meggs, she was acquitted on the more serious charge of seditious conspiracy against the United States.

Once inside the Capitol, Watkins jammed herself in a hallway packed with rioters heading toward the Senate chamber.

Police officers were at the opposite end of the hallway, pressing back against the mob. Officer Christopher Owens tearfully spoke to the court this week about the physical and emotional trauma he and other officers experienced.

“She used her body in that hallway,” federal prosecutor Alexandra Hughes told the court Friday. “She bears responsibility for the mental anguish and physical wounds of officers like Christopher Owens.”

Watkins founded a separate militia group in Ohio before joining with the Oath Keepers. A veteran and former medic, Watkins said she left the military after experiencing harassment over her gender transition.

“Your story and what you have endured … shows a great deal of courage, resilience, and you’ve overcome a lot,” federal judge Amit Mehta said before handing down her sentence.

“But all that doesn’t wipe out what happened that day,” Mehta said. “It doesn’t wipe out what you did that day.”

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Debt ceiling drama hurting American families: ‘We’re being treated like numbers’

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(WASHINGTON) — Gridlock in Washington over raising the debt ceiling threatens to disrupt payments to millions of Americans who rely on government benefits each month.

Seniors, veterans and Americans living with disabilities could be the first to suffer if the federal government is unable to pay its bills as soon as June 1. Payments totaling about $100 billion are scheduled to go out June 1 and June 2, with more scheduled throughout the month.

Several people shared with ABC News their growing financial fears as the political stalemate continues.

Susan Prahl Meachum, a 64-year-old living in rural Virginia, said she will “lose everything” if there is no deal to raise the debt limit in time.

Meachum is disabled and receives a $941 Social Security payment on the first day of every month. She said a delay would mean she couldn’t afford rent, utilities or groceries.

“In Washington, we’re being treated like numbers, or just totally figures on a page. We’re human beings and we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got,” Meachum said.

Pamala Gambe, 56, builds her entire budget around her $1,168 Social Security disability check, delivered on the third day of every month. Gambe lives with her granddaughter, and told ABC she struggles to “keep her in clothes or shoes.”

“I make sure all the bills are paid first,” she said.

Food stamps are also critical for Gambe amid persistently high inflation at the grocery store. The government is scheduled to pay out $1 billion in SNAP benefits on June 12. Gambe said she worries stricter work requirements for federal aid programs like food stamps — a key sticking point in the negotiations — could put her benefits at risk.

“Without Social Security and SNAP, not only will we be homeless, my goodness, we wouldn’t have money to buy food,” she said.

Also due on June 1 — $12 billion for veterans benefits. In North Carolina, 41-year-old Army veteran Skyleigh Heinen fears she’s among millions of vets whose VA benefits could be delayed.

“To me, there really isn’t a debate. We pay our bills,” she said.

Army veteran Naveed Shah in Washington, D.C., and Air Force veteran Jacob Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota, added the uncertainty over a U.S. default is already hitting American military families.

“Even if a deal is reached, everything winds up being okay next week, that still means that right now, families and veterans across the country are having to think about what does it mean for me to have to ration my current paycheck or my current disability paycheck,” Thomas said.

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All 123 US federal prisons need ‘maintenance’: Inspector general

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(WASHINGTON) — The 123 federal prisons in the United States need roughly $2 billion worth of “maintenance” and most are “aging and deteriorating,” according to a DOJ inspector general report.

In three prisons, the conditions are so bad they had to be closed — including the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan, which held Jeffrey Epstein prior to his death.

“We’re seeing crumbling prisons,” DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz told Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas. “We’re seeing buildings that we go into that have actually holes in the ceilings in multiple places, leading to damages to kitchens, to doctor’s offices to gymnasiums. And they’re not being fixed.”

The inspector general’s investigation showed crumbling infrastructure in MCC New York, which was closed by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and currently has no reopening date.

While BOP sought $200 million for infrastructure repairs in fiscal year 2022 and was allocated just $57 million from Congress, the costs to fix all the facilities would cost closer to $2 billion, per the report released earlier this month.

“And that what we’ve seen is when you don’t fix your infrastructure, we don’t keep your building up to speed,” Horowitz said. “You create safety and security issues. We’ve seen inmates sleeping with pipes running over their heads that leak, that aren’t getting fixed.”

It is not only inmates that have to deal with dilapidated infrastructure, but staff who work in the prisons have to as well.

“We’ve been complaining about our prison conditions for many, many years, and it’s the conditions of confinement for the offenders, but it’s also the working conditions that our employees work in,” Shane Fausey, president of the Council of Prisons Locals, told ABC News.

Fausey, who represents over 30,000 federal corrections officers in the country, said the employees he represents go into work in tough conditions with little fanfare because they are dedicated to keeping their communities safe.

The inspector general also released three other reports detailing some of the other failures at the BOP. The Taft Correctional Institution in Taft, California was so unsafe, according to the IG, that the Justice Department had to shut down its operations. The facility was built in 1996 and had problems from its opening with unstable soil that caused cracks throughout the facility. Those cracks were so big that the sun shines through them, according to the report.

“We’re seeing problems in every institution,” Horowitz told ABC News. “It’s a global problem. The business as usual isn’t working for the BOP. They have to change that, and they have to address these very serious problems.”

But BOP’s problems extend beyond the dire need for physical repairs, extending to ongoing security problems that have allowed a steady stream of contraband like drugs, cell phones and weapons to enter several of the federal prisons the IG examined.

A 2021 search of a federal prison in Atlanta found 134 inmate-made weapons, marijuana, methamphetamines and enough prescription pills to fill two one-gallon bags along with 705 cell phones — some hidden in prison walls.

“I’m not just talking about guns [and] knives. You clearly want that out of the prison,” Horowitz said. “But what we’re seeing is tobacco, which is often a currency in the prisons. We’re seeing synthetic drugs coming in. We’re seeing cell phones coming in a cell phone in a prison is a deadly weapon.”

Cell phones in prison have proved deadly. In 2013, inmates at a federal prison in Puerto Rico were accused of using a cell phone to orchestrate the murder of corrections officer Lt. Osvaldo Albarati. Four inmates plead guilty for their roles in the plot.

The Inspector General found that more than half of the security cameras in the Atlanta facility were inoperable or malfunctioning. At MCC, there were “serious operational issues related to…camera functionality.”

In a statement to ABC News, Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters said she is committing to work with the IG and Government Accountability Office in the areas highlighted in the report.

“The BOP will carefully evaluate and implement any necessary corrective actions to ensure that our mission of operating safe, secure, and humane facilities continue to be fulfilled,” she said. “I am confident our processes and procedures now in place will ensure future success. We continue to take concrete steps that will not only meet but exceed the expectations of our external partners, and we will utilize the data gathered from the reports to optimize the allocation of resources.”

Congress has set aside over $1 billion for BOP to construct two new institutions, but the funds remain largely unspent and the projects have remained in the planning stages for over a decade. BOP has asked Congress to cancel one project and revoke funding, but that request has not been acted on.

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Supreme Court cuts EPA’s Clean Water Act protection for wetlands

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(WASHINGTON) — A sharply divided Supreme Court on Thursday significantly rolled back federal safeguards for wetlands under the Clean Water Act, siding with Idaho property owners in a decision that curbs Environmental Protection Agency power.

The case, Sackett v. EPA, pitted Michael and Chantell Sackett against EPA regulators over a bid to build a family home adjacent to Priest Lake in northern Idaho.

The government said their land qualifies as a protected wetland, requiring an expensive permit for construction, while the family argued that its property is not directly connected to the lake and that the broad EPA regulations are an overreach.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 allows the government to set rules for pollution in “waters of the United States,” but for years, the extent to which adjacent wetlands are covered by the law has been hotly debated and unclear.

In 2017, a fractured Supreme Court said that the EPA can regulate any wetlands with a “significant nexus” to navigable waters, like rivers, lakes and oceans.

But Thursday, Justice Samuel Alito, writing for a five-justice majority in the Sackett case, said the existing standard is too broad, too difficult to enforce and too “precarious” for property owners.

“We hold that the [Clean Water Act] extends to only those wetlands that are as a practical matter indistinguishable from waters of the United States,” Alito wrote.

He said the EPA could only regulate wetlands adjacent to a “relatively permanent body of water connected to traditional interstate navigable waters” and having a “continuous surface connection with that water, making it difficult to determine where the ‘water’ ends and the ‘wetland’ begins.”

“Wetlands that are separate from traditional navigable waters cannot be considered part of those waters, even if they are located nearby,” Alito wrote.

The decision will in effect significantly reduce the number of wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act. It will also provide property owners with greater clarity and flexibility in utilizing their land free from government regulation.

“The Court’s ruling returns the scope of the Clean Water Act to its original and proper limits,” said Damien Schiff, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation who argued the case. “Courts now have a clear measuring stick for fairness and consistency by federal regulators. Today’s ruling is a profound win for property rights and the constitutional separation of powers.”

Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett in adopting the new, more stringent “continuous surface connection” standard for which wetlands are protected.

All of the justices agreed that the Sacketts’ property, specifically, should not have been regulated as a wetland under the Clean Water Act, but Trump-appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson in strongly arguing that the majority had gone too far with its reasoning.

“By narrowing the Act’s coverage of wetlands to only adjoining wetlands, the Court’s new test will leave some long-regulated adjacent wetlands no longer covered by the Clean Water Act, with significant repercussions for water quality and flood control throughout the United States,” Kavanaugh wrote for the minority.

EPA administrator Michael Regan said the agency was disappointed by the high court’s decision and that it “erodes longstanding clean water protections.”

“The Biden-Harris Administration has worked to establish a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ that safeguards our nation’s waters, strengthens economic opportunity, and protects people’s health while providing the clarity and certainty that farmers, ranchers, and landowners deserve,” Regan said in a statement. “These goals will continue to guide the agency forward as we carefully review the Supreme Court decision and consider next steps.”

The White House said the decision “aims to take our country backwards.”

“It will jeopardize the sources of clean drinking water for farmers, businesses and millions of Americans,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at her on-cam briefing Thursday afternoon.

Environmental groups said the decision is a huge setback.

“The Sackett decision undoes a half-century of progress generated by the Clean Water Act. Almost 90 million acres of formerly protected wetlands now face an existential threat from polluters and developers,” said Sam Sankar, vice president of Programs at Earthjustice, an advocacy group that had weighed in on the case.

Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous said the weakened rules would have a direct impact.

“Millions of Americans will have less safe drinking water than the generation before them,” Jealous said in a statement. “This fight is far from over.”

Biden administration lawyers are “carefully reviewing the decision,” per Jean-Pierre.

ABC News’ Benjamin Gittleson contributed to this report.

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Debt ceiling negotiators ‘making progress,’ Biden says even as deal remains elusive

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(WASHINGTON) — Seeking to strike a reassuring tone despite days of negotiations, President Joe Biden said Thursday afternoon that he’s had several “productive conversations” with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and their teams are “making progress” on debt ceiling talks as the country inches closer to default.

“I’ve made it clear time and again: Defaulting on our national debt is not an option,” Biden said as he delivered remarks in the Rose Garden before nominating a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But an agreement still remains elusive with just seven days until potential default. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen maintains that the U.S. government could run out of cash to pay all its bills in early June, possibly as soon as June 1.

House members left town on Thursday for Memorial Day weekend but were told to be ready to return if a deal is reached.

“It is time for Congress to act now,” Biden said in the Rose Garden. “I want to be clear: The negotiations we’re having with Speaker McCarthy is about the outlines of what the budget will look like, not about default. It’s about competing visions for America.”

“The only way to move forward is with a bipartisan agreement,” he added. “And I believe that we’ll come to an agreement that allows us to move forward and that protects the hardworking Americans of this country.

Earlier Thursday, McCarthy told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that “every hour matters” as the clock ticks toward June 1.

The speaker also expressed optimism the two sides will come to a solution, though he dodged questions on the narrowing timetable for Congress to be able to pass a deal.

“We worked well past midnight last night,” McCarthy said. “And yesterday, I thought, was a very good day. We made some progress. There are still some outstanding issues, and I’ve directed our teams to work 24/7 to try to solve this problem.”

A key Republican negotiator said there are still “fundamental disagreements” to resolve.

“Nothing’s resolved. Nothing’s resolved. And everyone wants to think you can lock up and bank something. You can’t bank anything until you actually have a complete deal,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina.

Asked if he was confident a deal would be reached by this weekend, McHenry replied, “I’m still trying to work for the deal. And it looks very difficult because it’s very difficult subjects that we’re dealing with. I don’t think there’s I’ve made no secret about this. It’s not a position I wanted us to be in.”

Even if a debt ceiling deal is reached, Congress faces a serious time crunch to pass legislation before the end of the month. After a bill is drafted, McCarthy’s pledging to give House members 72 hours to review it, a concession he offered to conservative hardliners roadblocking his speakership vote at the start of this year. Then the Senate will have to take up the bill before it goes to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Complicating the matter further is the Memorial Day recess. The House will gavel out Thursday, and the Senate left town last week, though leadership in both chambers has directed lawmakers to be prepared to return to Washington immediately if a deal is struck.

Several Democrats have voiced frustration in recent days over the status of negotiation, with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., dinging McCarthy’s plans to adjourn and excoriating Republicans for, in his words, making “unreasonable demands.”

“It’s my understanding that the designees of both President Biden as well as Speaker McCarthy will continue to talk, but it is unfortunate that House Republicans have chosen to get out of town before sundown,” Jeffries said in a news conference.

He hit the GOP for a “manufactured crisis” over the debt ceiling, accusing the party of holding the economy hostage.

“Republicans are driving us down a dangerous road of default or have presented the American people with another unacceptable choice, which is devastating cuts to children, devastating cuts to Medicaid, devastating cuts to nutrition, devastating cuts to education, devastating cuts to public safety and devastating cuts to our veterans,” he said.

Congressional Progressive Caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington voiced similar concerns, warning Wednesday that progressives “are not going to take a deal that hurts working people.”

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., said he was “very concerned” that Biden was giving too much away in the negotiations.

Bowman added, “I’m advocating for the White House to ensure that we don’t give away the house and default on our responsibilities.”

Jeffries said Thursday that Biden “is continuing to hold the line” on the spending cuts Republicans are seeking.

Meanwhile, conservative hardliners are telling McCarthy to stand his ground, too. They say they are seeking to end Democrats’ “addiction” to government spending, which they blame for inflation and other economic woes.

“Hold the line,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.

“This White House is a mockery of leadership. So we should hold firm and actually lead the country. And we have the ability to do that,” said Rep. Bryon Donalds, R-Fla.

As the politics play out, credit rating agency Fitch warned Thursday it was putting U.S. credit rating on watch for a possible downgrade.

Pressed for his reaction, McCarthy said he wasn’t concerned.

“I am concerned about, at the end of the day, if you do not have a deal worthy of the American public, you should be worried about Fitch. I’m not,” he said.

ABC News’ Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

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