The House Rules Committee voted 7-6 on Tuesday night to advance a bill dealing with the federal debt ceiling to the full House, with two Republicans joining Democrats to oppose.
The full House is expected to vote on Wednesday.
The committee vote came as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy worked furiously to sell fellow Republicans on the debt ceiling and budget deal he negotiated with President Joe Biden and win approval in time to avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default.
Under fire from conservatives, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy worked furiously Tuesday to sell fellow Republicans on the debt ceiling and budget deal he negotiated with President Joe Biden and win approval in time to avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default.
Leaders of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus lambasted the compromise as falling well short of the spending cuts they demand, and they vowed to try to halt passage by Congress.
A much larger conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, declined to take a position. Even rank-and-file centrist conservatives were not sure, leaving McCarthy desperately hunting for votes.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy worked furiously to sell fellow Republicans on the debt ceiling and budget deal he negotiated with President Joe Biden and win approval in time to avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., left, and Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, right, speak with reporters as member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus talk about the debt limit deal, during a news conference, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Roy joined with Democrats in the vote
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), and members of the House Freedom Caucus speak on the debt limit deal outside of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Republican and Democratic leaders scrambled to secure congressional support for a bill aimed at avoiding a US debt default
With tough days ahead, the speaker went into overtime, assembling lawmakers for pizza behind closed doors Tuesday evening at the Capitol, after publicly urging skeptical GOP colleagues to ‘look at where the victories are.’
Earlier, he said on Fox News that ‘Theres nothing in the bill for’ Democrats – hardly a helpful statement for Biden.
In one late development, 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.
But in a surprise that could further erode Republican support, the GOP’s drive to impose work requirements on older Americans receiving food stamps ends up boosting spending by $2.1 billion over the time period. That’s because the final deal exempted veterans and homeless people, expanding the food stamp rolls by some 78,000 people monthly, the CBO said.
McCarthy brushed past questions about the mounting opposition, saying ‘everybody is elected’ to have their own vote.
Quick approval by both the House and Senate would ensure government checks will continue to go out to Social Security recipients, veterans and others, and prevent financial upheaval worldwide by allowing Treasury to keep paying U.S. debts.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., left, wearing a pin simulating the increasing U.S. National Debt, joined at right by Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., both members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whispers to Norman as the House Rules Committee
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., testifies as the House Rules Committee prepared the debt limit bill, The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, for a vote on the floor, at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. He is joined at right by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kan., and Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to turn out votes from some two-thirds of the Republican majority, a high bar the speaker may not be able to reach
The deal as detailed in the 99-page bill would restrict spending over the next two years, but it includes environmental policy changes and expanded work requirements for some older food aid recipients that Democrats strongly oppose.
Biden was speaking directly to lawmakers, making more than 100 one-on-one calls, the White House said.
Top administration officials are heading to Capitol Hill to brief Democrats privately ahead of Wednesday´s planned vote.
With few lawmakers expected to be fully satisfied, Biden and McCarthy are counting on pulling majority support from the political center, a rarity in divided Washington, to prevent a federal default. Some 218 votes are needed for passage in the 435-member House.
One sign of the discontent emerged from the typically partisan House Rules Committee that voted 7-6 to advance the bill to the full House, with two Republicans joining Democrats to oppose.
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to turn out votes from some two-thirds of the Republican majority, a high bar the speaker may not be able to reach. Still, Jeffries said the Democrats would do their part to avoid failure.
‘It is my expectation that House Republicans would keep their promise and deliver at least 150 votes as it relates to an agreement that they themselves negotiated,’ Jeffries said. ‘Democrats will make sure that the country does not default.’
President Joe Biden departs after placing flowers at Veterans Memorial Park at the Delaware Memorial Bridge in New Castle, Delaware on Tuesday
Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on Tuesday
McCarthy could expect no help from the far right.
‘This deal fails, fails completely, and that´s why these members and others will be absolutely opposed to the deal,’ Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said, flanked by others outside the Capitol. ‘We will do everything in our power to stop it.’
Ominously, the conservatives warned of potentially trying to oust McCarthy over the compromise.
‘There´s going to be a reckoning,’ said Rep. Chip Roy of Texas.
Despite the late-night meeting at the Capitol , Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said after the ‘healthy debate’ she was still a no.
Liberal Democrats decried the new work requirements for older Americans, those 50-54, in the food aid program. And some Democratic lawmakers were leading an effort against a surprise provision to greenlight a controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline natural gas project through Appalachia.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she appreciated that Biden was able to minimize the ‘extreme demands’ Republicans made on spending, but she raised serious concerns about the food stamps and other environmental policy changes.
She also had this warning for McCarthy: ‘He got us here and it´s on him to deliver the votes.’
Overall, the package is a tradeoff that would impose some federal spending reductions for the next two years along with a suspension of the debt limit into January 2025, pushing the volatile political issue past the next presidential election. Raising the debt limit, now $31.4 trillion, would allow Treasury to continue borrowing to pay the nation´s already incurred bills.
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., left, speaks next to Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, both members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, as the House Rules Committee meets to prepare the debt limit bill, The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, for a vote on the floor
U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks to reporters about the debt limit at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
House Freedom Caucus memebers (L-R) Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) announce they would oppose the deal to raise the debt limit
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the House Rules Committee, joins other lawmakers from the conservative House Freedom Caucus at a news conference to voice their objections to the debt limit deal reached by Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden
All told, it would hold spending essentially flat for the coming year, while allowing increases for military and veterans accounts. It would cap growth at 1% for 2025.
Policy issues were raising the most objections.
Questions were also being raised about the unexpected provision that essentially would give congressional approval to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas project important to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that many Democrats and others oppose as unhelpful in fighting climate change.
The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, said including the pipeline provision was ‘disturbing and profoundly disappointing.’
But Manchin on Tuesday touted the pipeline project as something ‘we know we need.’
The House aims to vote Wednesday and send the bill to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader McConnell are working for passage by week’s end.
President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden walk on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington
President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden walk to the White House from Marine One in Washington, D.C.
Schumer called the bill a ‘sensible compromise.’ McConnell said McCarthy ‘deserves our thanks.’
Senators, who have remained largely on the sidelines during much of the negotiations between the president and the House speaker, began inserting themselves more forcefully into the debate.
Some senators are insisting on amendments to reshape the package from both the left and right flanks. That could require time-consuming debates that delay final approval of the deal.
For one, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia planned to file an amendment to remove the pipeline provision.
But making any changes to the package at this stage seemed unlikely with so little time to spare. Congress and the White House are racing to meet the Monday deadline now less than a week away. That’s when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the U.S. would run short of cash and face an unprecedented debt default without action.
A default would almost certainly harm the U.S. economy and spill around the globe, as the world’s reliance on the stability of the American dollar and the country’s leadership fell into question.