McCarthy’s balance, Biden’s choice and the challenges ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s a deal no one in Washington claims to really like. But after weeks of negotiations, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a potentially devastating default.

The stakes are high for both men – and each will now have to persuade their party’s lawmakers to vote for them. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last week that the United States could run out of cash to pay bills and default on its obligations if the debt ceiling is not raised by June 5.

The ultimate deal, struck by Biden, McCarthy and a small group of their aides, is a two-year budget deal that would essentially keep spending flat for 2024, while increasing it for defense and veterans, and capping increases to 1% for 2025 It would suspend the debt ceiling until January 2025, after the next presidential election. Republicans had pushed for spending cuts and passed their own bill with much bigger cuts last month.

The package would also make policy changes, including adding work requirements for some food aid recipients and streamlining an environmental law that Republicans say has made it harder to build energy projects.

Takeaways from the deal and the negotiations leading up to it:


Since McCarthy won the House Speaker on the 15th ballot in January, it was clear that the debt ceiling negotiations would be his first and perhaps greatest test.

Known more for his strategy than his politics, McCarthy faced a challenge that seemed almost insurmountable, with a slim majority and a sizable group of far-right conservatives certain to oppose whatever he negotiated with Biden. And he could still find himself in the middle of a crisis if too many members of his caucus revolt when the House votes on the package this week.

Through it all, the Californian showed off his typical laid-back vibe, projecting confidence in Bill and his success. He said Sunday he would win a majority of Republicans on the bill and a few Democrats.

On a conference call Saturday night, McCarthy said more than 95% of his conference members “were extremely excited about what they were seeing.”

But some House Republicans publicly criticized the deal, arguing it did too little to reduce the deficit. Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina tweeted a vomit emoji, complaining that some Republicans on the call were praising the speaker for getting what he called “almost zippo in exchange” for the cap hike. the debt.


For months, Biden and his aides had a mantra: There would be no debt limit negotiations. But he negotiated anyway.

That’s not where Biden, a veteran of the ugly 2011 debt limit battle that saw the nation’s credit rating downgraded for the first time in history, wanted to be. But it was a likely scenario – with a Republican-controlled House that had made it clear from the start that it would not increase borrowing power under a Democratic president without extracting spending restrictions or other policy concessions. .

There was no way Biden, who is running for re-election next year, wanted a historic blemish on his watch.

Biden continued to insist he was negotiating on the budget, not the debt ceiling. But prodded by a Sunday night reporter who noted that was precisely what Republicans were looking for in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling, the president appeared to break with his rhetoric.

“Of course, yes,” Biden said with a light laugh. “Can you think of an alternative?”

Now he will have to sell him to House Democrats, who must vote for him in sufficient numbers to offset the defection of Republicans. Many progressive House members appeared skeptical of the deal, but mostly remained silent over the weekend as they awaited more details.

But the deal won praise from another key Democratic group. The NDP Coalition, which has about 100 members, praised Biden for brokering “a workable, bipartisan solution to end this crisis.”


Republicans were able to secure some policy changes they had been calling for for years, even modest ones, including on food aid. The bill would raise the age limit for existing work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. It would also create a new agency to expand and streamline environmental reviews that Republicans have complained about for decades.

The new work requirements for able-bodied SNAP beneficiaries without dependents would be phased in by 2025 and expire by 2030. And a provision pushed by Biden would remove some vulnerable beneficiaries altogether — like veterans and the homeless. shelter – work requirements. But Republicans have made it clear that pushing more people to work in exchange for government perks was a major victory for them, even if it was mostly symbolic.

The bill would also amend the National Environmental Policy Act and appoint “a single lead agency” to develop environmental reviews, hoping to streamline the process.

Republicans had hoped for a much broader permit package that would make it easier to build and develop energy projects. But Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves, a McCarthy ally who was one of the negotiators, said the bill brings “transformational changes to the environmental permitting and review process” for the first time in four decades.


McCarthy said the House would vote on the package on Wednesday. If passed, it will then head to the Democratic-led Senate, where leaders will need to secure the agreement of all 100 members to expedite the process and avoid a default by next Monday.

The White House briefed Democratic senators on Sunday and McCarthy briefed Republicans. But most senators have remained silent on the deal as they wait for the full text and to see if McCarthy can run it through the House.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky backed out of the negotiation process early on, saying it should be a negotiation between the White House and McCarthy.

McConnell issued a statement on Sunday supporting the legislation, but some members of his caucus criticized it. Both leaders will face any potential objections over the coming week as they seek to gain full support to move quickly on the deal.

“With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats? Utah Sen. Mike Lee tweeted on Saturday, aligning himself with House Republicans who say the deal is not conservative enough.

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