A tough fight to the bitter end toward a crucial vote in the US House of Representatives as President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy head a package of debt ceiling and budget cuts. They assemble a coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans to push it forward after fierce pushing from conservatives and some progressive dissidents.
Biden will send senior White House officials to meet early Wednesday on Capitol Hill to drum up support ahead of the vote. McCarthy is working hard to win over his skeptical fellow Republicans, even dodging challenges to his leadership, to avoid a potentially disastrous US default.
Despite deep disappointment from right-wing Republicans that the compromise fell short of the spending cuts they sought, McCarthy insisted that he would have the votes needed to secure passage.
Quick approval by the House and later this week by the Senate will ensure government checks continue to be distributed to Social Security recipients, veterans and others and prevent financial turmoil at home and abroad. Next is Monday when the Treasury said the United States would run out of money to pay its debt, risking an economically dangerous default.
The package fully satisfies some lawmakers, but Biden and McCarthy are counting on winning majority support from the political center, a rarity in a divided Washington testing the leadership of a Democratic president and a Republican president.
Overall, the 99-page bill restricts spending for the next two years, suspends the debt ceiling until January 2025 and changes policies, including new work requirements for older Americans to receive food assistance and gives the green light. Many Democrats oppose.
For more than two hours Tuesday night, as aides brought pizza to the Capitol, McCarthy walked Republicans through the details, answered questions and encouraged them to keep an eye on the bill’s budget savings.
The speaker sometimes had to face tough crowds. Leaders of the far-right House Freedom Caucus spent the day criticizing the agreement for failing to meet spending cuts, trying to block it from passing Congress.
“This deal failed, it completely failed,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., chairman of the Freedom Caucus, 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 the position. Even the centrist rank-and-file Conservatives were not sure, leaving McCarthy to ask for votes.
Rep. Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican, said it wasn’t one, even after a “healthy debate” late into the night.
Ominously, the Tories warned of the possibility of trying to oust McCarthy on the deal.
Representative Chip Roy of Texas said, “There will be a reckoning.”
The White House said Biden was speaking directly with lawmakers, making more than 100 personal calls.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restrictions in the package would reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top target for Republicans trying to reduce the debt burden.
President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a final agreement on Sunday on a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
McCarthy told lawmakers that the number would be higher if the two-year spending cap was extended, which is not guaranteed.
But in a surprise move that could further reduce Republican support, the GOP’s campaign to impose work requirements on older Americans who receive food stamps is raising $2.1 billion over the time period. The CBO said that’s because the final agreement exempted veterans and the homeless from expanding food stamp rolls by 78,000 people each month.
Democratic Leader of the House Hakeem Jeffries said a Republican majority depended on McCarthy winning roughly two-thirds of the vote, a high bar the speaker may not be able to reach. Approval requires 218 votes in the 435-member house.
Still, Jefferies said Democrats would do their part to avoid failure.
“I hope House Republicans keep their promise and at least 150 vote on a deal,” Jeffries said. “Democrats will make sure the country doesn’t default.”
Lib Dems denounce new work requirements for older Americans aged 50 to 54 in the food assistance programme.