Crucial days ahead as debt ceiling deal hits vote and Biden calls on lawmakers to back

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden says he is “pleased” with the debt ceiling and budget deal brokered with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as White House and congressional leaders scramble to secure its passage this week in time to lift the country’s borrowing limit and avoid a disastrous US default.

Biden has spent part of the Memorial Day holiday working the phone, calling lawmakers from both parties, as the president does his part to deliver the votes. A number of far-right conservatives slam the deal as falling short of the deep spending cuts they wanted, while liberals slam policy changes such as new work requirements for older Americans as part of of the food aid program.

A key test will take place on Tuesday afternoon when the House Rules Committee is due to review the package and vote on sending it to the full House for a vote scheduled for Wednesday.

“I feel great about this,” Biden told reporters Monday as he left Washington for his home in Delaware.

“I spoke to a number of members,” he said, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a former partner in big bipartisan deals who largely ignored this one.

“I’ve talked to a whole bunch of people, and it feels good,” Biden said.

To progressive Democrats worried about the package, the president had a simple message: “Talk to me.”

As lawmakers weigh the 99-page bill, few are expected to be fully satisfied with the final product. But Democrat Biden and Republican McCarthy are counting on majority support from the political center, a rarity in divided Washington, to join the vote to prevent a catastrophic federal default.

Wall Street will open early Tuesday morning and deliver its own assessment, as U.S. financial markets that were closed when the deal was struck over the weekend show their reaction to the outcome.

McCarthy has acknowledged that the hard-won compromise with Biden will not be “100% of what everyone wants” because he leads a slim majority in the House fueled by far-right conservatives.

Faced with a potential comeback from his conservative ranks, the Republican president will need to rely on more than half of House Democrats and half of House Republicans to push through the debt ceiling package.

Overall, the package is a compromise that would impose spending cuts for the next two years as well as a suspension of the debt ceiling until January 2025, pushing the volatile political issue beyond the next presidential election. . Raising the debt ceiling, now to $31 trillion, would allow the Treasury to continue borrowing to pay the country’s already incurred bills.

Moreover, political issues elicit the most objections from legislators.

Liberal lawmakers fought hard but were unable to stop new work requirements for people between the ages of 50 and 54 who receive government food assistance and are otherwise able-bodied without dependents. Republicans have demanded tougher work requirements as part of the deal, but some say changes to the food stamp program aren’t enough.

Republicans were also pushing to tighten work requirements for health care and other aids; Biden refused to follow them.

Questions are also being raised about an unexpected provision that essentially gives congressional approval to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a major natural gas project for Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., to which many Democrats and others oppose.

At the same time, conservative Republicans, including those in the House Freedom Caucus, say the budget cuts don’t go far enough to win their support.

“No one claiming to be a conservative could justify a YES vote,” tweeted Rep. Bob Good, R-Va.

This ‘deal’ is madness,” said Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C. “I will not vote to bankrupt our country.”

On balance, the package would keep spending essentially flat for the coming year, while allowing increases for military and veterans accounts. It would cap growth at 1% for 2025.

The House Rules Committee has three members of the influential Freedom Caucus who could very well try to stop the package moving forward, forcing McCarthy to lean on Democrats on the panel to ensure the bill can be sent to the House floor.

The House aims to vote on Wednesday and send the bill to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and McConnell are working for rapid passage by the end of the week.

Senators, who remained largely on the sidelines for much of the negotiations between the President and the Speaker of the House, began to insert themselves more forcefully into the debate.

Some senators are pushing for amendments to reshape the left and right flank package. This could require time-consuming debates which would delay the final approval of the agreement.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia is “extremely disappointed” with the provision giving the green light to the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, his office said in a statement. He is considering filing an amendment to remove the provision from the package.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has complained that military spending increases are not enough. “I will use all the powers I have in the Senate to pass amendments to undo this disaster for defense,” he tweeted.

But making changes to the package at this point seems highly unlikely with so little time to spare. Congress and the White House are racing to meet the Monday deadline in less than a week. That’s when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States would run out of cash and face an unprecedented default without action.

A default would almost certainly crush the US economy and spread around the world as the world’s reliance on the stability of the US dollar and the country’s leadership would be called into question.


Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Mary Clare Jalonick and Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.

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