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Meet the negotiators leading debt limit talks for Biden and McCarthy

President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) emerged from their latest meeting on the debt ceiling in agreement on one key item: They had appointed a small group of officials to lead talks in the hopes of making more rapid progress.

“We narrowed the group to meet and hammer out our differences,” Biden said Wednesday.

The group of negotiators spoke Tuesday night, were set to meet again Wednesday and are expected to be in touch frequently before the president and top congressional leaders reconvene next week after Biden returns from Japan.

Here are the officials taking the lead on talks with the White House and Congress facing a time crunch to clinch a deal on raising the debt ceiling.

Shalanda Young

Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young

The involvement of Young, who leads the Office of Management and Budget at the White House, is a significant step forward in talks given both her familiarity with the budget and her well of knowledge of Capitol Hill.

Young is the budget director at the White House and has been at the forefront of numerous spending battles during her time as staff director of the House Committee on Appropriations from 2017 until she joined the Biden administration in 2021.

While Biden is a creature of the Senate, Young has extensive connections on the House side that will likely be crucial in negotiations with the House GOP majority.

Between her time in the White House and time working in the House, Young has built relationships with key players on both sides of the aisle. But she is unlikely to accept significant spending cuts — she penned a memo released Tuesday that warned GOP proposals would mean steep reductions in government services across the board.

Steve Ricchetti

Steve Ricchetti

Ricchetti is one of Biden’s closest aides in the White House, and he has a track record of helping to broker bipartisan deals, particularly through his relationships in the Senate.

Ricchetti was a pivotal player in getting the bipartisan infrastructure law across the finish line, working closely with former Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to finalize the agreement. 

He previously served as a Senate liaison during the Clinton administration, and he worked with Biden during his time as vice president.

His involvement in talks moving forward is a sign that negotiations may be growing more serious, as one of Biden’s closest confidantes will be in the room while the president is overseas in Japan.

Louisa Terrell

Terrell has served as Biden’s head of legislative affairs since he took office in January 2021, putting her at the forefront of nearly every major negotiation with lawmakers.

Terrell has been involved in discussions on the debt limit and budget talks in recent weeks, and White House officials sought to downplay any suggestion that she was being displaced by Young and Richetti.

“Don’t forget Louisa Terrell, who has been at the center of budget negotiations and will continue to be along with Shalanda and Steve,” White House communications director Ben LaBolt tweeted Tuesday in response to news that Young and Richetti were tapped as the administration’s liaisons.

Prior to her job as director of legislative affairs, Terrell spent eight years on Biden’s staff when he was a senator and worked in the Obama White House. She also spent time as an aide to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.)

Graves has emerged as one of McCarthy’s most trusted allies in the House Republican conference, and he has been tasked with serving as the point person for the Speaker as negotiations progress.

Graves, who was elected in 2014, sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.

McCarthy told reporters Wednesday that he speaks with Graves “very frequently,” and that the congressman was integral in crafting the Republican bill that passed late last month that would raise the debt ceiling and cap government spending moving forward. The White House has said it would veto the legislation, which is also a non-starter in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“So he has a clear understanding of where members are,” McCarthy said. “He is a former staffer, he’s a former member working in government. He understands policy, many people would call him a policy wonk.”

McCarthy staffers and other lawmakers

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

While Graves is taking the lead for the House GOP side of talks, McCarthy indicated that members of his staff and other lawmakers may take part in negotiations as the two sides work through key issues.

“Look, I go in the room as well as my staff, and the president has put two people in there. If there’s certain topics come in, I’ll have certain other members come in and talk as well,” McCarthy said. 

While McCarthy has said he trusts Graves and staff in the room to make decisions to help move negotiations forward, ultimately the talks will come down to whether the Speaker and the president can reach an agreement in the end.

But both sides have expressed optimism that the interim talks between some of their top surrogates will be productive in the meantime.

“I’m optimistic that now we have a structure that can work. The timeframe is what’s difficult,” McCarthy said Wednesday on Fox Business Network.

Mychael Schnell contributed reporting.

Source: The Hill

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