Debt Ceiling Negotiations Turn Spicy

Happy Monday! Citing a salmonella outbreak in 11 states, the CDC is reminding Americans not to eat “even a small amount” of raw cookie dough or cake batter.

We’ll take our chances, thank you very much.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • OPEC+ countries, led by Saudi Arabia, announced Sunday they would slash oil output by more than 1 million barrels per day in an effort to stabilize prices despite weakening demand. The surprise move could inflame tensions between Washington and Riyadh, as the White House advised against the cuts. Oil futures jumped by as much as 8 percent on the news, with analysts projecting prices could return to nearly $100 a barrel.
  • The Social Security Administration revised its estimate on Social Security insolvency last week, now projecting that—barring reforms—it will only be able to fully pay scheduled benefits until 2033 rather than 2034. The revision is largely due to a 3 percent drop in the agency’s gross domestic product and labor productivity projections.
  • The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index—the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation—rose 5 percent year-over-year in February, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported Friday, down from a 5.3 percent annual increase in January. The core index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices and is considered a better predictor of future inflation, was up 4.6 percent year-over-year, a tick below January’s 4.7 percent annual rise. Consumer spending, meanwhile, increased 0.2 percent from January to February—but declined by 0.1 percent when adjusting for inflation.
  • The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Thursday against Norfolk Southern over the February 3 train derailment that spilled toxic chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, accusing the rail company of illegally polluting waterways. The suit seeks injunctive relief, cost recovery, and civil penalties to ensure the company pays for the entirety of the cleanup effort. A Norfolk Southern spokesman said the company remains focused on “cleaning up the site, assisting residents whose lives were impacted by the derailment, and investing in the future of East Palestine and the surrounding areas.”
  • Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled Friday Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against Fox News would go to trial, rejecting the network’s claim that its anchors’ speech claiming the election had been stolen and Dominion was to blame was protected by the First Amendment and neutral reporting privilege. “Even if the neutral report privilege did apply, the evidence does not support that FNN conducted good-faith, disinterested reporting,” Davis wrote. “FNN’s failure to reveal extensive contradicting evidence from the public sphere and Dominion itself indicates its reporting was not disinterested.” Barring a settlement, the case will now go before a jury, with the trial set to begin April 17.
  • About 25 people were injured and one killed when a bomb went off at a cafe in St. Petersburg on Sunday. It’s not yet clear who was behind the blast, or whether the man killed—Vladlen Tatarsky, a Russian military blogger and vocal proponent of the war in Ukraine—was deliberately targeted. Kyiv denied any involvement.
  • At least 30 people were killed over the weekend as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms swept through the South and Midwest. Tennessee seems to have been the hardest hit—its statewide death toll rose to 15 on Sunday—but tornadoes reportedly touched down in at least seven states.
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Sunday he will run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, telling ABC News he is “convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America.” The 72-year-old—who served as a congressman from 1997 to 2001 and headed the Drug Enforcement Administration from 2001 to 2003—said former President Donald Trump should drop out of the race following his indictment by the Manhattan district attorney last week.
  • Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania was discharged Friday from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he’d been receiving treatment for clinical depression since February 15. Fetterman’s office said his depression had been declared “in remission” and that the freshman senator will return to Congress on April 17, after the Easter recess. 
  • Pope Francis was released from the hospital Saturday after undergoing treatment for bronchitis. Leaving the hospital, the 86-year-old pontiff joked with reporters that he’s “still alive” despite being admitted last week after having trouble breathing and receiving treatment with intravenous antibiotics.
  • The LSU Tigers bested the Iowa Hawkeyes and Player of the Year Caitlin Clark 102-85 on Sunday, winning the NCAA Women’s Basketball title in the tournament’s all-time highest-scoring championship game. It’s the first such championship in LSU program history, but made LSU’s Kim Mulkey the first women’s basketball coach to win a national title with two different teams.

Strong Words and Cold Feet

President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy depart the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy depart the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

At this point in the deliberations over raising the debt ceiling, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden sound less like senior elected officials negotiating to prevent global economic meltdown and more like two UFC fighters trash talking before a prizefight.

The United States hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit in January, and the Treasury Department has since been moving money around to keep the bills paid—so-called “extraordinary measures” expected to run out sometime this summer, depending on tax revenue. Most everyone agrees defaulting on our debts is not an acceptable outcome—Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi has described the likely result as “financial Armageddon”—but lawmakers have so far made only incremental steps toward a solution. Republicans insist on pairing the debt limit increase with spending cuts, while Democrats demand a clean debt ceiling hike.

This content is available exclusively to Dispatch members
Try a membership for full access to every newsletter and all of The Dispatch. Support quality, fact-based journalism.
Already a paid member? Sign In
Comments (264)
Join The Dispatch to participate in the comments.
Load More