Negotiations on a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and thus avoid a default with potentially catastrophic consequences for the world economy resumed briefly on Friday before ending with no progress cited by either side.

Republicans had returned to bipartisan talks with the White House on Friday night, hours after negotiations had come to an abrupt halt earlier in the day.

“We had a very, very frank discussion where we talked about where we are, talked about where things need to be,” Garret Graves, the Republican representative, told reporters after a brief meeting in the Capitol with White House officials.

“This was not a hearing tonight,” Graves said, adding that the time for the next meeting had not been determined.

Representative Patrick McHenry said he was not sure the two sides could meet House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s goal of reaching an agreement this weekend.

Earlier in the day, Graves of Louisiana, the lead negotiator for House Republicans in talks with the Biden White House, had told reporters at the Capitol, “We’re not there.”

“We’ve decided to hit pause, because it’s just not productive.”

The standoff had plunged financial markets with the deadline ticking closer to avoid default.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that without action the US government will default on its debt around June 1.

Joe Biden is away at the G7 summit in Japan. White House officials led the talks for Democrats.

One told the Guardian: “There are real differences between the parties on budget issues and the talks will be difficult. The president’s team is working hard for a reasonable bipartisan solution that can pass the House and Senate.”

For decades after 1917, when the federal debt was limited, raising that limit, or ceiling, was usually a routine procedure, if subject to political high-fistedness.

In 2006, Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama voted against a pay raise under a Republican President, George W Bush.

But Republicans have increasingly and effectively used threats to refuse to raise the ceiling as a negotiating tool, and in 2011, as president, Obama was forced to say he repented his voice five years earlier.

In the 2011 battle, the House GOP was extracted trillions of dollars in spending cuts that Obama was forced to sell to his party. Now, under Biden, the same dynamic is at play.

With the Republican Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, grateful to far-right members who made him endure 15 votes before getting the position, the GOP is demanding deep spending cuts, on Democratic priorities including health care and climate change, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

Democrats say Republicans should agree on a clean increase — that is, without conditions — as they have done repeatedly under Donald Trump. Democrats also demand that Biden not blink.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, flanked by Sens. Jeff Merkley, left, and Ed Markey, urges Joe Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, flanked by Sens. Jeff Merkley, left, and Ed Markey, urges Joe Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment. Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA

At the Capitol on Friday, Graves said, “Until people are willing to have reasonable conversations about how you can actually move forward and do the right thing, then we’re not going to sit here and talk to ourselves.”

Republican leaders outside the talks tried to apply pressure. Not long before Graves spoke to reporters, Trump said his party should not give ground.

Republicans, the president’s predecessor wrote on his Truth Social platform, “shouldn’t make a deal on the debt ceiling unless they get everything they want (including the ‘kitchen sink’). That’s how the Democrats have always dealt with us. Don’t back down!”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, directed fire at Biden, accusatory the president to “wait(ing) months before agreeing to negotiate with Speaker McCarthy on a spending deal.

“They are the only two who can reach an agreement,” McConnell said. “It’s time for the White House to get serious. Time is of the essence.”

Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, countered: “We are in a crisis, for ONE REASON – Republicans are threatening to burn down the entire economy if they don’t get their way.”

In a recent column for the New York TimesHarvard law professor Laurence A Tribe, an expert on constitutional law, accused Republicans of playing “chicken or, perhaps more accurately, Russian roulette” with America’s debt.

Tribe went on to outline his theory of how Biden has the authority to raise the ceiling on his own, under the 14th Amendment, which states that the U.S. national debt “shall not be called into question.”

Tribe wrote: “Mr. Biden must tell Congress in no uncertain terms — and as soon as possible, before it’s too late to avert a financial crisis — that the United States will pay all its bills when they come due, even if the Treasury Department has to borrow more than Congress has said that it can.”

Such a step has support from prominent Democrats.

In a letter earlier this week, a group of senators including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (an independent who voted with the party) said: “Using this authority would allow the United States to continue paying its bills on time, without delay, preventing a global financial catastrophe .”

But Biden has resisted so far.

On Friday, an unnamed official told the Washington Post The Biden White House still believed that “a path to a reasonable bipartisan budget agreement” was possible, “as long as both sides recognize that they will not get everything they want and that compromises are necessary”.