McCarthy and Biden reach tentative agreement on debt ceiling

White House and Congressional GOP negotiators reached an agreement in principle to avoid a default. Now they have to get it to President Joe Biden’s office in time.

Leaders on the Hill will now race to draft and pass the deal as quickly as possible – by both the House and the Senate – before the June 5 deadline. McCarthy said he expects the text of the bill to be finalized on Sunday and the House to vote on the legislation on Wednesday.

And Biden and Chairman Kevin McCarthy have yet to sell their respective parties on the deal, navigating tough votes in both chambers. McCarthy immediately staged a call with members after the deal was announced, calling it a ‘big win’ and saying Democrats didn’t get ‘one thing’ they wanted from talks at a conference member-wide phone call, according to three people. On call.

While Conservative Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) sharply criticized the deal — saying he was “extremely disappointed” that the deal included “no meaningful reductions” — other members of the Freedom Caucus have welcomed the deal, including Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio). Although the two said they wanted to see the text, Jordan praised McCarthy for a deal in which the government “spends less” than before and forces Democrats to react to Labor demands.

“That sounds like a really good deal to me,” Jordan said, according to one of the people on the call.

And the speaker forcefully defended the deal after Good’s criticism, saying it could pass the Senate and he never claimed legislation passed by the House last month would be the “end of any bill”.

McCarthy wrapped up the call around 10:30 p.m., telling his conference he needed to speak to the White House again and make sure the text reflected their tentative agreement. “Let’s stick together,” he said, ending the call. Biden and McCarthy will speak to each other again on Sunday, the speaker had told reporters earlier.

In addition to lifting the $31.4 trillion borrowing cap until the 2024 presidential election, the deal would in principle keep non-military spending roughly flat for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, well below the $130 billion cuts to fiscal year 2022 levels that Republicans had originally demanded.

However, Rep. Dusty Johnson (RS.D.), a close McCarthy ally, flatly rejected — and scoffed at — this characterization of the deal, instead saying that funding non-defense and military non-veterans would be at fiscal year 2022 levels.

Non-defence spending would rise 1% in 2025, followed by years of non-binding funding targets, according to the person familiar. Republicans initially pushed for a decade of tough funding limits. Defense spending would be set at the level proposed in Biden’s budget for the coming fiscal year, which represents a modest 3.5% increase over current funding levels — less than many Republican hawks in the defense would have liked to see for the Pentagon in order to keep pace with inflation.

The deal includes policy changes to work requirements for the TANF and SNAP programs, including timelines for SNAP recipients up to age 54, according to a source familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to share details. publicly. Veterans and the homeless would be exempt from new or existing time limits. The changes are likely to be unpopular with House Democrats.

But he imposes no new work requirements for Medicaid, a win for the White House.

In other victories for Biden, the deal protects the Cut Inflation Act’s environmental provisions, including funding for clean energy. Nor does it affect Biden’s student debt relief plan.

McCarthy, speaking to reporters, touted the deal had ‘historic spending cuts’, no new taxes, no new government programs and would bring reforms to ‘lift people out of poverty’, referring to the adjusted work requirements.

Republicans are expected to need a significant number of Democrats to help them push the bill through the House amid early signs that some conservative members are unlikely to support a deal significantly different from a passed bill. by the House last month. A Democratic lawmaker, who spoke candidly on condition of anonymity, expected 60 to 80 Democrats to vote for the deal, though he warned that this represents an early estimate.

Biden and McCarthy spoke on the phone just hours before the deal was announced in a bid to work out final sticking points, including a GOP push to include work requirements in social safety net programs. . And the deal follows days of closely watched negotiations between Reps. Garret Graves (R-La.), Patrick McHenry (RN.C.), OMB Director Shalanda Young and Steve Ricchetti, a trusted adviser of Biden.

But Hill’s leaders and the White House still have major political hurdles to overcome. The grind of the legislative process could push Congress past the June 5 deadline, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned the country will run out of money to pay its bills.

House GOP leaders have pledged to give their members a full 72 hours to consider a bill. They’ve already circumvented that rule this year, but Republicans have vowed they won’t try to cut short the time for debt limit legislation. Even leadership allies believe it would threaten GOP support for the deal.

House Democrats plan to call a member at 5 p.m. Sunday, according to a person familiar with the details.

The bipartisan deal is expected to test McCarthy’s grip on his right flank, including members of the House Freedom Caucus. But Johnson said Saturday night he heard broad Republican support for the deal.

“Members I speak to, from centrists to true conservatives, are incredibly supportive of this deal. That doesn’t mean we’ll get 222 votes. But a lot of this conference is excited about the deal,” Johnson said. .

McCarthy needs to get a majority of his own conference to back the deal, which he predicted on Saturday he would have “no problem” doing. But given a possible conservative rebellion, he will also need the votes of House Democrats, who have urged Biden not to pander to GOP demands in order to get a deal done.

And as he faced outside pressure from House Democrats, Biden also sought to portray himself as ready to fight for his party’s priorities. Asked Friday about concerns he might give Republicans too much over work requirements, Biden replied, “I don’t bow to anyone.”

Even after it has been approved by the House, the bill still has to go through the Senate, where it is expected to take days to reach a final vote unless all 100 senators agree to speed things up. . But a fast-track seems unlikely after Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) vowed he would “use every procedural tool at my disposal to prevent a debt ceiling agreement that does not contain substantial spending and budgetary reforms”.

Sam Stein contributed reporting.

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