Republican Kevin McCarthy’s ultra-thin presidency faces its biggest test since he grabbed the hammer in January as his debt deal with President Joe Biden comes up for a vote on Wednesday.
McCarthy and the president reached an agreement in an hour-and-a-half phone call just days before the United States ran out of money to pay its bills.
The plan increases the amount the government can borrow through 2025, which was Biden’s top priority during talks with Republican leaders. It also freezes annual non-defense discretionary spending for two years while delivering $2.1 trillion in other national spending cuts that GOP lawmakers wanted.
“Republicans are changing the culture and trajectory of Washington — and we’re just getting started,” the speaker said in a Memorial Day tweet.
But not so fast, Mr President.
Any round of victory hinges on securing the Biden-McCarthy deal through a dodgy Republican caucus filled with conservative lawmakers who are loyal to cutting government spending.
And there’s no guarantee progressive Democrats, who held a conference call on Monday to discuss the plan, will back Biden either. The Liberals are likely to raise objections to parts of the deal, such as expanding work requirements for some aid programs, maintaining Trump-era tax cuts and accelerating a gas pipeline project in Appalachia.
Here are three things to know ahead of Wednesday’s debt ceiling vote in the House.
Biden and GOP leaders like the deal
The president was all smiles and good vibes coming out of his phone call with McCarthy, and he exuded optimism on Monday when asked if lawmakers would pass the deal.
“I feel great about this,” Biden told reporters outside the White House on Monday. “I spoke to a whole bunch of people, and it feels good”
Biden would want nothing more than to end what has been a negotiating headache that has brought the nation to the brink of default and economic disaster. If the deal is done, it means he won’t have to deal with the debt headache until the 2024 presidential campaign.
Crucially, though, Biden will likely brag about saving national programs — from rental assistance and scientific research — from House Republicans who wanted to make deeper cuts.
In addition to maintaining the same levels of funding for the federal budget, the deal also spares Social Security and Medicare, which were a sticking point for the president during his State of the Union address. earlier this year.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rushed to defend the Biden-McCarthy plan hours after it was announced in hopes of covering for the president. McConnell said he “is making urgent progress toward preserving the full faith and credit of our nation and an indispensable step in putting its fiscal house in order.”
Conservative wins – but GOP House hardliners furious
McCarthy’s House allies tell reporters the deal will “absolutely pass” because it holds so many Republican victories.
One of the most obvious is that the deal claws back billions in unspent COVID-19 relief funds, wrings $10 billion from IRS funding, and limits how long able-bodied adults 54 or younger without dependent children can receive food stamps if they do not meet certain work requirements.
“The debt limit agreement is full of conservative wins,” tweeted South Dakota Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson, who leads the Main Street Caucus.
Many GOP members will likely echo Johnson, who argues that by forcing Democrats to find money in the existing budget, most conservatives will support the plan.
Still, some tax hawks publicly expressed their dismay and portrayed McCarthy as a traitor to their cause.
“After hearing about the debt ceiling deal, I was a no,” Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican who challenged McCarthy for the president’s gavel, said in a May 29 tweet. . “After reading the debt ceiling agreement, I am absolutely no!!”
Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican who was one of the key votes needed for McCarthy to win the presidency, said the deal gives Biden and the Democrats a “free pass to defend their reckless spending.” ahead of the 2024 campaign.
“This deal must be rejected,” he said.
On Tuesday, members of the House Freedom Caucus rallied outside Capitol Hill to denounce the plan, saying McCarthy had failed.
But other conservative members who are also known for their steadfast views have expressed support for McCarthy’s deal with the president.
Representative from Kentucky Thomas Massie, a fierce GOP tax hawk, praised him for including parts of his so-called “penny plan” which requires a 1% cut in spending across the board if Congress does not pass the appropriation bills.
“I respect the opposition to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, but I’m voting yes,” Massie said in a tweet Tuesday night. “I’ve been in Congress for a decade and this is the first real bill that cuts spending.”
Congressional Democrats are playing coy, for now
With the spotlight on McCarthy and his caucus, the Biden administration is quietly calling on House Democrats to win their votes.
House Democrats don’t have much to celebrate in this proposal, but the charm offensive seems to be working in the sense that it kept progressive lawmakers from speaking out against the deal at the same volume as their colleagues. of right.
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California said liberal-leaning members were “influential” on whether they would support the plan. But before Wednesday’s vote, he brushed off the deal.
“Debt deal cuts food stamps (and) social programs while we have an affordability crisis,” Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted on Tuesday.
The congressman’s message linked to a 2022 Federal Reserve survey, which found that about 37% of Americans said they didn’t have enough money to cover a $400 emergency.
“It’s not ‘extreme’ to speak on behalf of low-income Americans,” he said.
Other Democrats such as Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri have said, as someone who has received food stamps before, that she opposes the deal, describing the work requirement as “racist, classist and inhuman”.
Limiting Democratic unrest will be key for the White House given the growing number of House Republicans critical of the McCarthy-Biden deal, who may have to use Democrats as a crutch to save the bill.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden, McCarthy deal: What to know about the House debt ceiling vote