Debt Ceiling Deal Now Goes to Senate 06/01 06:10
Veering away from a default crisis, the House overwhelmingly approved a debt
ceiling and budget cuts package, sending the deal that President Joe Biden and
Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated to the Senate for swift passage in a matter
of days, before a fast-approaching deadline.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Veering away from a default crisis, the House
overwhelmingly approved a debt ceiling and budget cuts package, sending the
deal that President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated to the
Senate for swift passage in a matter of days, before a fast-approaching
The hard-fought compromise pleased few, but lawmakers assessed it was better
than the alternative -- a devastating economic upheaval if Congress failed to
act. Tensions ran high as hard-right Republicans refused the deal, but Biden
and McCarthy assembled a bipartisan coalition to push to passage on a robust
314-117 vote late Wednesday.
"We did pretty dang good," McCarthy, R-Calif., said afterward.
Amid deep discontent from Republicans who said the spending restrictions did
not go far enough, McCarthy said it is only a "first step."
Biden, watching the tally from Colorado Springs where Thursday he is
scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy,
phoned McCarthy and the other congressional leaders after the vote. In a
statement, he called the outcome "good news for the American people and the
Washington is rushing after a long slog of debate to wrap up work on the
package to ensure the government can keep paying its bills, and prevent
financial upheaval at home and abroad. Next Monday is when the Treasury has
said the U.S. would run short of money and risk a dangerous default.
Biden had been calling lawmakers directly to shore up backing. McCarthy
worked to sell skeptical fellow Republicans, even fending off challenges to his
A similar bipartisan effort from Democrats and Republicans will be needed in
the Senate to overcome objections.
Overall, the 99-page bill would make some inroads in curbing the nation's
deficits as Republicans demanded, without rolling back Trump-era tax breaks as
Biden wanted. To pass it, Biden and McCarthy counted on support from the
political center, a rarity in divided Washington.
A compromise, the package restricts spending for the next two years,
suspends the debt ceiling into January 2025 and changes some policies,
including imposing new work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid
and greenlighting an Appalachian natural gas line that many Democrats oppose.
It bolsters funds for defense and veterans, and guts new money for Internal
Revenue Service agents.
Raising the nation's debt limit, now $31 trillion, ensures Treasury can
borrow to pay already incurred U.S. debts.
Top GOP deal negotiator Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana said Republicans
were fighting for budget cuts after the past years of extra spending, first
during the COVID-19 crisis and later with Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, with
its historic investment to fight climate change paid for with revenues
But Republican Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus helping to lead
the opposition, said, "My beef is that you cut a deal that shouldn't have been
For weeks negotiators labored late into the night to strike the deal with
the White House, and for days McCarthy has worked to build support among
skeptics. At one point, aides wheeled in pizza at the Capitol the night before
the vote as he walked Republicans through the details, fielded questions and
encouraged them not to lose sight of the bill's budget savings.
The speaker has faced a tough crowd. Cheered on by conservative senators and
outside groups, the hard-right House Freedom Caucus lambasted the compromise as
falling well short of the needed spending cuts, and they vowed to try to halt
A much larger conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, declined
to take a position. Even rank-and-file centrist conservatives were unsure,
leaving McCarthy searching for votes from his slim Republican majority.
Ominously, the conservatives warned of possibly trying to oust McCarthy over
One influential Republican, former President Donald Trump, held his fire:
"It is what it is," he said of the deal in an interview with Iowa radio host
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to turn
out Republican votes in the 435-member chamber, where 218 votes are needed for
As the tally faltered on an afternoon procedural vote, Jeffries stood
silently and raised his green voting card, signaling that the Democrats would
fill in the gap to ensure passage. They did, advancing the bill that hard-right
Republicans, many from the Freedom Caucus, refused to back.
"Once again, House Democrats to the rescue to avoid a dangerous default,"
said Jeffries, D-N.Y.
"What does that say about this extreme MAGA Republican majority?" he said
about the party aligned with Trump's "Make America Great Again" political
Then, on the final vote hours later, Democrats again ensured passage,
leading the tally as 71 Republicans bucked their majority and voted against it.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restrictions
in the package would reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top
goal for the Republicans trying to curb the debt load.
In a surprise that complicated Republicans' support, however, the CBO said
their drive to impose work requirements on older Americans receiving food
stamps would end up boosting spending by $2.1 billion over the time period.
That's because the final deal exempts veterans and homeless people, expanding
the food stamp rolls by 78,000 people monthly, the CBO said.
Liberal discontent, though, ran strong as nearly four dozen Democrats also
broke away, decrying the new work requirements for older Americans, those
50-54, in the food aid program.
Some Democrats were also incensed that the White House negotiated into the
deal changes to the landmark National Environmental Policy Act and approval of
the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline natural gas project. The energy
development is important to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., but many others oppose
it as unhelpful in fighting climate change.
On Wall Street, stock prices were down Wednesday.
In the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate
Republican leader Mitch McConnell are working for passage by week's end.
Schumer warned there is "no room for error."
Senators, who have remained largely on the sidelines during much of the
negotiations, are insisting on amendments to reshape the package. But making
any changes at this stage seemed unlikely with so little time to spare before