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McCarthy still "an optimist" about debt ceiling agreement, but there's no deal yet

President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spoke by phone Saturday evening as the White House and Republican congressional negotiators continue to work toward a debt ceiling agreement

Biden and McCarthy spoke by phone at about 6 p.m. Eastern time, CBS News learned. Biden spoke earlier with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

A White House official told CBS News negotiators are "continuing to make progress."

However, GOP negotiator, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, struck a more pessimistic tone, telling reporters just prior to the call that there was still a divide between the two sides on spending numbers and work requirements.

Those disagreements — and "most of the issues that remain" — need to be resolved by Biden and McCarthy on their call, he said.

"They're big and thorny issues that we have to reconcile in a divided government," McHenry added. 

McCarthy has been at the Capitol this weekend, and he told reporters Saturday morning, "We do not have a deal. We are not there yet. We did make progress."

He said he and negotiators "worked well into early this morning and we're back at it now." 

There are, he said, "some things we just have to finish out," adding, "we've got to make sure we get a right agreement for the American people."

Asked later Saturday morning about whether he was confident a deal could be struck by the afternoon, McCarthy responded, "I don't know about today."

Time is growing short to suspend or raise the debt ceiling to avoid a first-ever default by the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a letter to Congress Friday, "we now estimate that Treasury will have insufficient resources to satisfy the government's obligations if Congress has not raised or suspended the debt limit by June 5."

Despite the pressure to address the debt limit, McCarthy reaffirmed that House will maintain its 72-hour rule, which gives House members 72 hours to review a bill after its text is finalized before they vote on it. 

"This is going to be an agreement I think everybody should be able to read," he said. But unlike much of the legislation that Congress considers, McCarthy predicted this one would be shorter, "anywhere between 150 pages or less."

If negotiators come to an agreement, the speaker said he would call all the congressional leaders and discuss the "basis of where we're going" and the timeline for passage. 

McCarthy said he's talked to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and suggested that negotiators have also received ideas from Democratic lawmakers like moderates Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

Pressed on the timing of a deal, McCarthy would only say, "Each day I feel closer and better."

McHenry has said negotiators have narrowed the list of issues to be addressed.

"This is not how I anticipated the final hours, the final days would go. But we're getting to a very narrow set of issues that has to be dealt with... We've had a very long list for a long time," he told reporters early in the day Saturday. "What I didn't anticipate is we'd have a very short list for a very long time."

Biden told reporters Friday that he, too, is optimistic.

"With regard to the debt limit, things are looking good," the president said, as he departed for Camp David for the weekend. "I'm very optimistic. I hope we'll have some clearer evidence tonight before the clock strikes 12 that we have a deal. But it's very close, and I'm optimistic."

— Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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