Biden, McCarthy Seek Support for Deal 05/31 06:18
Hard-fought to the end, the debt ceiling and budget cuts package is heading
toward a crucial U.S. House vote as President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin
McCarthy assemble a coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans to push it
to passage over fierce blowback from conservatives and some progressive dissent.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hard-fought to the end, the debt ceiling and budget cuts
package is heading toward a crucial U.S. House vote as President Joe Biden and
Speaker Kevin McCarthy assemble a coalition of centrist Democrats and
Republicans to push it to passage over fierce blowback from conservatives and
some progressive dissent.
Biden is sending top White House officials to meet early Wednesday at the
Capitol to shore up support ahead of voting. McCarthy is working furiously to
sell skeptical fellow Republicans, even fending off challenges to his
leadership, in the rush to avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default.
Despite deep disappointment from right-flank Republicans that the compromise
falls short of the spending cuts they demanded, McCarthy insisted he would have
the votes needed to ensure approval.
"We're going to pass the bill," McCarthy said as he exited a lengthy Tuesday
night meeting at the Capitol.
Quick approval by the House and later in the week the Senate would ensure
government checks will continue to go out to Social Security recipients,
veterans and others and would prevent financial upheaval at home and abroad.
Next Monday is when the Treasury has said the U.S. would run short of money to
pay its debts, risking an economically dangerous default.
The package leaves few lawmakers fully satisfied, but Biden and McCarthy are
counting on pulling majority support from the political center, a rarity in
divided Washington, testing the leadership of the Democratic president and the
Overall, the 99-page bill restricts spending for the next two years,
suspends the debt ceiling into January 2025 and changes policies, including new
work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid and greenlighting an
Appalachian natural gas line that many Democrats oppose.
For more than two hours late Tuesday as aides wheeled in pizza at the
Capitol, McCarthy walked Republicans through the details, fielded questions and
encouraged them not to lose sight of the bill's budget savings.
The speaker faced a sometimes tough crowd. Leaders of the hard-right House
Freedom Caucus spent the day lambasting the compromise as falling well short of
the spending cuts they demand, and they vowed to try to halt passage by
"This deal fails, fails completely," Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman
of the Freedom Caucus, said earlier in the day, flanked by others outside the
Capitol. "We will do everything in our power to stop it."
A much larger conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, declined
to take a position. Even rank-and-file centrist conservatives were unsure,
leaving McCarthy desperately hunting for votes.
Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said after the "healthy debate" late into the night
she was still a no.
Ominously, the conservatives warned of potentially trying to oust McCarthy
over the compromise.
"There's going to be a reckoning," said Rep. Chip Roy of Texas.
Biden was speaking directly to lawmakers, making more than 100 one-on-one
calls, the White House said.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restrictions
in the package would reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top
goal for the Republicans trying to curb the debt load.
McCarthy told lawmakers that number was higher if the two-year spending caps
were extended, which is no guarantee.
But in a surprise that could further erode Republican support, the GOP's
drive to impose work requirements on older Americans receiving food stamps ends
up boosting spending by $2.1 billion over the time period. That's because the
final deal exempted veterans and homeless people, expanding the food stamp
rolls by 78,000 people monthly, the CBO said.
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to turn
out votes from some two-thirds of the Republican majority, a high bar the
speaker may not be able to reach. In the 435-member House, 218 votes are needed
Still, Jeffries said the Democrats would do their part to avoid failure.
"It is my expectation that House Republicans would keep their promise and
deliver at least 150 votes as it relates to an agreement that they themselves
negotiated," Jeffries said. "Democrats will make sure that the country does not
Liberal Democrats decried the new work requirements for older Americans,
those age 50-54, in the food aid program. And some Democratic lawmakers were
leading an effort to remove the surprise provision for the Mountain Valley
Pipeline natural gas project. The energy development is important to Sen. Joe
Manchin, D-W.Va., but many others oppose it as unhelpful in fighting climate
The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul
Grijalva of Arizona, said including the pipeline provision was "disturbing and
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive
Caucus, had this warning for McCarthy: "He got us here, and it's on him to
deliver the votes."
Wall Street was taking a wait-and-see approach. Stock prices were mixed in
Tuesday's trading. U.S. markets had been closed when the deal was struck over
The House aims to hold procedural votes Wednesday afternoon with final
action expected in the evening. It would then send the bill to the Senate,
where Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader
McConnell are working for passage by week's end.
Schumer called the bill a "sensible compromise." McConnell said McCarthy
"deserves our thanks."
Senators, who have remained largely on the sidelines during much of the
negotiations between the president and the House speaker, began inserting
themselves more forcefully into the debate.
Some senators are insisting on amendments to reshape the package from both
the left and the right flanks. But making any changes to the package at this
stage seemed unlikely with so little time to spare before Monday's deadline.