House OKs debt ceiling bill to avoid default, sends Biden-McCarthy deal to Senate
Associated Press | 6/1/2023, 6 p.m.
WASHINGTON - Veering away from a default crisis, the House approved a debt ceiling and budget cuts package late Wednesday, as President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy assembled a bipartisan coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans against fierce conservative blowback and progressive dissent.
The hard-fought deal pleased few, but lawmakers assessed it was better than the alternative — a devastating economic upheaval if Congress failed to act. Tensions ran high throughout the day as hard-right Republicans refused the deal, while Democrats said “extremist” GOP views were risking a debt default as soon as next week.
With an overwhelming House vote, 314-117, the bill now heads to the Senate with passage expected by week’s end.
Speaker McCarthy insisted his party was working to “give America hope” as he launched into a late evening speech extolling the bill’s budget cuts, which he said were needed to curb Washington’s “runaway spending.”
Amid deep discontent from Republicans who said the spending restrictions did not go far enough, McCarthy said it is only a “first step.”
The package makes some inroads in curbing the nation’s debt as Republicans demanded, without rolling back Trump-era tax breaks as Biden wanted. To pass it, President Biden and Speaker McCarthy counted on support from the political center, a rarity in divided Washington.
In a statement released after the vote, Presidetn Biden said: “I have been clear that the only path forward is a bipartisan compromise that can earn the support of both parties. This agreement meets that test.”
He called the vote “good news for the American people and the American economy.”
President Biden had sent top White House officials to the Capitol and called lawmakers directly to shore up backing. Speaker McCarthy worked to sell skeptical fellow Republicans, even fending off challenges to his leadership, in the rush to avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default.
Swift passage later in the week by 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 Trea- sury has said the U.S. would run short of money to pay its debts.
Overall, the 99-page bill restricts spending for the next two years, suspends the debt ceiling into January 2025 and changes some policies, including imposing new work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid and greenlighting an Appalachian natural gas line that many Democrats oppose.
It bolsters funds for defense and veterans, and guts new money for Internal Revenue Service agents.
Raising the nation’s debt limit, now $31 trillion, ensures Treasury can borrow to pay already incurred U.S. debts.
Top GOP deal negotiator Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana said Republicans were fighting for budget cuts after the past years of extra spending, first during the COVID-19 crisis and later with Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, with its historic investment to fight climate change paid for with revenues elsewhere.
But Republican Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus helping to lead the opposition, said, “My beef is that you cut a deal that shouldn’t have been cut.”
For weeks negotiators labored late into the night to strike the deal with the White House, and for days McCarthy has worked to build support among skeptics. At one point, aides wheeled in pizza at the Capitol the night before the vote as he walked Republicans through the details, fielded questions and encouraged them not to lose sight of the bill’s budget savings.