House approves bipartisan deal to suspend debt ceiling, reducing fear of US default

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, leaves the chamber after passing a crucial procedural vote on the debt ceiling and budget cuts package he negotiated with President Joe Biden, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. The United States still faces a potentially disastrous U.S. default in less than a week if Congress does not act.  The bill now goes to the Senate.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy leaves the chamber after the passage of a crucial procedural vote on the debt ceiling and the package of budget cuts he negotiated with President Biden. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a deal to suspend the debt ceiling on Wednesday night, reducing the risk of a potentially disastrous default. To eliminate that risk, the Senate needs to pass the bill and send it to President Biden for his signature before the Treasury runs dry, which could happen as early as Monday.

The House approved the deal, which is the product of weeks-long negotiations between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), by a vote of 314 to 117 after 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday. The legislation, which will cap certain non-defense spending and suspend the debt ceiling for two years, will reduce about $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The bill is now heading to the Senate, where it has the support of bipartisan leaders and is expected to pass as early as Thursday.

Biden and McCarthy’s compromise allowed the federal government to dodge a crisis and was a political victory for both men. The president cemented his brand as a bipartisan negotiator, and the speaker got Biden to negotiate after refusing to do so for weeks.

Both leaders have won something for their parties. Republicans, who had criticized Biden’s repeated extension of a Trump-era pandemic pause in federal student loan payments, assured the president would not unilaterally extend that pause beyond the end of August. The deal also included another major GOP goal: a $20 billion cut in the

$80 billion in new funds that Democrats had sent to the Internal Revenue Service as part of an effort to curb wealthy tax cheats.

Democrats secured a suspension of the debt ceiling, ensuring that Biden will not face this politically risky situation while he runs for re-election. In a surprise twist, they also appear to have secured an increase in food stamp funding: while new work requirements will apply for some recipients, new exceptions for the homeless, some former foster children home and veterans will result in a net increase in enrollment in the program, the Congressional Budget Office estimated this week.

But the deal left bitter feelings on both sides and prompted warnings of future trouble.

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a member of the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus, who unsuccessfully tried Tuesday to defeat the bill, suggested Republicans should try to oust McCarthy from the presidency over the debt limit negotiation. . The Republican majority in the House is narrow, and McCarthy only secured the presidency in a historic 15th vote in January by making concessions to hardline Republicans that are making it easier for him to be ousted from power.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Buck said McCarthy further soured his relationship with the Republican conference by relying on Democratic votes to pass a rule of order before the final vote.

“It didn’t help, in there,” Buck told The Times as he left the floor of the House after the vote. “The Democrats voted for the rule because he couldn’t get the vote for the rule.”

In a rare display of their differences over policy, the three House Democrats vying to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2024 split on the deal, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland and Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine voting no.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, who is closest to the Democratic leadership, voted for the bill.

“I will stand with other progressives who hold the line for the core values ​​of the Democratic Party,” Lee said in a statement.

This schism will reinforce the accusation that Schiff is less progressive than his opponents. Earlier this year, The Times reported that Schiff withdrew her candidacy to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus after she proved divisive among group members.

Democrats have also complained that Biden gave in to McCarthy and negotiated the national debt ceiling.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), who voted against the bill, said it was a ‘terrible precedent’ for allowing ‘MAGA Republicans’ to use the country’s debt limit as currency exchange on expenses.

“There’s no turning back,” Huffman said. “There’s a reason when you go camping, they tell you not to feed the bears. Even when you give them a little marshmallow, something really bad is going to happen.

“We fed the bears,” Huffman said. “I’m sure it won’t be the end.”

Many of the 46 Democrats who voted against the bill offered similar warnings or complained about the bill’s merits. In a phone interview with The Times ahead of the vote, Los Angeles Rep. Sydney Kamlager expressed concern about cuts to IRS funding.

“The irony is not lost on me that the last man who was in the White House was notorious for not paying taxes, and actually planted this seed of the IRS being bad news,” a- she declared. “When we talked about prosecuting people who are trying to rip off the government and get something for nothing, the fact that they now want to defund the IRS is unbelievable.”

Still, large majorities of both parties ultimately backed the bill. The GOP’s final vote tally was 149 yes and 71 no, while among the Democrats it was 165 to 46.

At a press conference after the vote, McCarthy said it was “brilliant” and “fabulous” that more Democrats voted for the deal than Republicans. “I’m already thinking about other bills to introduce because they just said they would vote for it,” he said.

In a statement, Biden welcomed the passage of the deal, saying the deal met the “test” of “bipartisan compromise.” The president also said the compromise “protects key priorities and achievements of the past two years, including historic investments that are creating good jobs across the country.”

All Democratic leaders backed the deal, and GOP Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama was the only Republican executive to oppose it.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Bonsall) said the bill was “better than expected” and praised McCarthy for his negotiations, noting that Republicans had been happy to spend freely when they had unified control of government under President Trump and the former Republican speakers had not reached similar agreements with Democratic presidents.

“He did better than any of his predecessors, and he had less in hand to play,” he said. “I mean, John Boehner, along with the House and the Senate, didn’t get bills as balanced as this one. In fact, you know, if you really look at it, you know, back in the days of Trump, where was the austerity? »

Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) called the deal a “fair deal” and predicted it would pass with strong bipartisan support.

“Both sides have something to say. We have some substance. It’s not life changing. You know, we should never have played with the full faith and credit of the United States, but it looks like we have a chance to preserve it,” he told The Times on Wednesday as he left the bedroom floor.

Peters credited McCarthy with a competent round of negotiations.

“He’s a survivor. So I think he’s come up with something that’s plausible enough for both sides. So, thank you to him and to the president.

Joseph is special envoy. Times writer Benjamin Oreskes contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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