House to vote on Biden-McCarthy debt ceiling bill days before default deadline

WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House is set to vote Wednesday on debt ceiling legislation brokered by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Joe Biden, a high-stakes moment for the bill aimed at averting a disastrous flaw.

Although the McCarthy-Biden deal came under heavy criticism from hardliners in the GOP who argued that its spending cuts and conservative provisions were too weak, the House Rules Committee ruled. voted 7-6 to send the measure to the ground Tuesday night, a key signal of support ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

“I’m confident we’ll pass the bill,” McCarthy, R-California, told reporters Tuesday.

Next to Joe Biden with a blue overlay and Kevin McCarthy with a red overlay.  (NBC News/Getty Images; AP)

Next to Joe Biden with a blue overlay and Kevin McCarthy with a red overlay. (NBC News/Getty Images; AP)

If the bill passes the House, it would go to the Democratic-led Senate, where it would need 60 votes before it can make it to Biden’s office. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., both endorsed it.

The White House has urged the measure to be passed quickly as the United States nears Monday’s deadline to tackle the debt ceiling or risk an economically catastrophic default on the country’s debt. The deal includes a two-year debt limit extension coupled with a two-year budget deal containing modest spending cuts.

House Republican leaders expect to lose a few votes, mostly from far-right members who say the deal isn’t aggressive enough to cut spending to win their approval. That means some Democrats will be needed to cross the finish line, though Democratic leaders say the blame lies primarily with Republicans.

“I expect House Republicans to deliver on their commitment to produce at least two-thirds of their conference, or about 150 votes,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters on Tuesday. DN.Y. “Democrats are committed to ensuring that we do our part and avoid default.”

Jeffries wouldn’t say how many Democrats would vote for the bill, but he said he was confident the country would extend the debt ceiling in time.

McCarthy said he didn’t tell Jeffries how many Democratic votes he would need, but he said he expects Wednesday’s final vote to be bipartisan.

“Any time there’s a two-party deal, there’s always two parties that vote for it at the end,” McCarthy said.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said he was “yes” and predicted a “supermajority” of House GOP members would support the bill. “It’s a reasonably good bill, and it’s responsible,” he said.

“Our only rule was the majority of the majority” would need to support any bill for McCarthy to introduce, Bacon said. He added that he would get “much more than half” of the conference.

The legislation would cap spending for the next two years. It includes conservative measures that would recover about $28 billion in unspent Covid relief funds, eliminate $1.4 billion in IRS funding, and transfer about $20 billion of the $80 billion the IRS has obtained through the Inflation Reduction Act towards non-defence funding.

The bill would also restart federal student loan repayments after a long pause that began at the start of the pandemic. And it would add work requirements for people under 55 to get benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (the current threshold is 50), with exclusions for veterans and the homeless.

Far-right members tore up the measure.

Rep. Dan Bishop, RN.C., said the Conservative policy provisions were in fact “fictitious suggestions for change” that are meaningless. “In effect, what they did” is a “clean” extension of the debt limit without substantial policy additions, he argued, describing it as a capitulation to Biden’s demands.

“And so there’s nothing to it,” said Bishop, who also challenged the agreement’s provision to extend the debt ceiling for two years until the next presidential election. “If you’re going to tacitly do a clean debt cap, make it short.”

If the debt limit bill passes the House on Wednesday, opposing senators like Mike Lee, R-Utah, have procedural tools they could use to slow it down after the Monday deadline. Schumer encouraged members to act quickly to avoid default.

“When this bill comes to the Senate, I intend to bring it forward as soon as possible for consideration,” Schumer said. “Senators must be prepared to act urgently to send a final product to the president’s office by the June 5 deadline.”

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