Republicans firm on keeping work requirements in debt deal, negotiator says

"Hell no, hell no! ... Not a chance. Not happening," Graves said.

Published: May 26, 2023 6:17pm

Updated: May 26, 2023 6:17pm

A leading Republican negotiator working on a deal with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling indicated that the GOP would not relent in its demand for stricter work requirements for welfare programs as part of any compromise arrangement.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday revised the deadline for lawmakers to reach a deal, saying they have until June 5 after previously warning that a default would come at the start of June. The House left Washington for its Memorial Day recess on Thursday, though key negotiators remain in the capital.

Speaking to reporters outside the Capitol on Friday, Louisiana Republican Rep. Garret Graves insisted that Republicans were not prepared to drop the demand to reach a deal, saying "Hell no, hell no! ... Not a chance. Not happening," The Hill reported.

"Think about this for just a minute: Democrats right now are willing to default on the debt so they can continue making welfare payments for people that are refusing to work," he added. "And I’m talking about people that are without dependents, people that are able-bodied between 18 and 55."

The GOP has traditionally been critical of entitlement programs, warning that they lead to mass dependence on government benefits and discourage the able-bodied from seeking gainful employment. 

Graves admitted that negotiators had made progress on a deal, but admitted that lawmakers "continue to have major issues that we have not bridged the gap on right now."

North Carolina GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry, who is working alongside Graves, expressed optimism on Thursday and said that negotiators on both sides appeared genuinely eager to reach an agreement.

Lawmakers, he conceded are "[s]till working through thorny issues, but there’s goodwill on all sides... It’s just tougher issues that remain."

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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