How Louisiana is helping reach a deal on the debt ceiling

BATON ROUGE — Two familiar faces in south Louisiana are now leading voices to help congressional Republicans and Democrats reach a deal to avert a potentially cataphoric debt default.

Rep. Garret Graves (R-Baton Rouge) was tapped by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to help cut a deal with President Joe Biden and Democrats to raise the debt ceiling — the limit on money that the U.S. can borrow — and avoid the government running out of money. Lawmakers are racing to beat a June 1 deadline and avoid the U.S. defaulting on debts.

Graves is working with Zachary-native Shalanda Young, director of the White House budget office, who was tapped by the President to lead negotiations on behalf of Democrats.

Political insiders say that Graves and Young have a unique rapport and have previously worked hand-in-hand on flood control issues and coastal restoration projects impacting Louisiana.

“Policy wonk”

Graves is seen as a “policy wonk” who has years of experience as a House and Senate staffer. McCarthy has leaned on Graves since taking the speaker gavel in January and appointed him to a House leadership role. Now the speaker is leaning on Graves to broker a deal among the five factions of the GOP known as the “Five Families”.

“He’s worked with all the different groups, and he’s really been the individual that helped bring people together in crafting the bill itself of Limit, Save, Grow. So he has a clear understanding of where members are,” McCarthy said of Graves. “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 is hoping Graves can use his institutional experience and iron on a bipartisan deal on the debt ceiling. Republicans want to raise the debt ceiling while slashing federal spending. Democrats believe that the spending cuts should not be tied to a debt ceiling increase and instead be specific to the federal budget.

“I’m confident that we’ll get the agreement on the budget, and America will not default,” Biden said.

‘Path to an agreement’

Both sides have been actively negotiating. Biden is cutting a trip overseas to the G8 Summit short to return to Washington D.C. to continue negotiating with Republican leaders. McCarthy has signaled that he believes there is a “path that we could come to an agreement.”

Graves says he believes there are four policy areas where Biden and Democrats and Republicans could get a deal: establishing spending caps for coming government funding bills, recapturing unspent Covid relief funds, expanding work requirements for participants in some safety net programs and overhauling the permitting process for infrastructure and energy projects.

“I think there’s a pretty good opportunity there,” Graves said.

‘Attentive and understanding’

Biden made Young a proxy in debt ceiling negotiations with McCarthy, Graves and Republicans this week.

“Choosing Steve Ricchetti and Shalanda Young to lead these negotiations was the best move the Biden administration could have done,” Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema told Politico. “And there is enough time for them to get to an agreement.”

Young was appointed by the President to oversee his budget office in 2021. She is the first Black woman to lead OMB. Before joining the Biden administration, Young worked with the House Appropriations Committee for over a decade.

She has experience brokering deals during critical times. Most recently, Young helped draft budget proposals to end the government shutdown in 2018-2019. She also played a major role in distributing Covid spending.

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