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The House passed the debt limit deal between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden on Wednesday 314 to 117.
71 Republicans opposed the deal, arguing it caved too far to White House demands, while 165 Democrats voted in favor of it.
The deal, which suspends the debt limit until Jan. 1, 2025, now heads to the upper chamber – where senators have begun to demand amendments to the bill. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said there is not time to send an amended version back to the House before the nation runs out of funds to pay its bills -and is trying to force a quick vote.
Sec. Janet Yellen has said the U.S. only has until June 5 before the Treasury runs up against the $31.4 trillion borrowing limit.
The bill limits national security spending in fiscal 2024 to $886 billion – in line with President Biden’s budget request – and caps it at $895 billion in 2025, a one percent increase.
The House passed the debt limit deal between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden on Wednesday
It raises the debt ceiling until January 2025, claws back roughly $29billion in unspent COVID funds, ends the pause on Biden’s student loan repayments and cuts $1.9 billion – plus an additional $20 billion in the future – of the $80 billion for new IRS agents.
It also leaves non-defense discretionary spending flat in 2024 and allows for a one percent increase in 2025 – essentially amounting to cuts since inflation is not factored in.
‘Tonight, the House took a critical step forward to prevent a first-ever default and protect our country’s hard-earned and historic economic recovery,’ Biden said in a statement praising passage Wednesday evening.
Members from the ideological far right and far left voiced their opposition to the deal, known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act, in the run-up to the vote.
Republicans lined up to oppose the deal even faster than Democrats – and the House Freedom Caucus formally whipped its members to vote against it.
GOP leadership was forced to play defense after the right flank of their conference claimed the deal was not conservative enough and gave in too much to the White House.
‘To say we didn’t push [the White House] to the brink, to say that we didn’t maximize negotiations, it’s just an uninformed position…it’s just really unfortunate that people have put us in the situation,’ lead negotiator Garret Graves told reporters Wednesday.
‘They don’t understand what’s in the bill,’ lead negotiator Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., told reporters of his colleagues who said they would vote ‘no.’
Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said McCarthy promised to deliver around 150 GOP votes — meaning McCarthy factored in about 70 defections.
The rule vote passed the bill 314 to 117 on Wednesday evening
McCarthy had to walk a careful line of ushering a deal with Democrats through that will stave off a calamitous default and holding on to his speakership.
Freedom Caucus members who balked at suspending the debt ceiling until 2025, as agreed to in the deal, have floated the idea of invoking a motion to vacate – in which one member can force a vote on the House floor to oust McCarthy.
Lead negotiator Rep. Garret Graves tore into Freedom Caucus members who have publicly bad-mouthed the deal even before text was released.
Asked about Roy’s criticisms, Graves told reporters ‘there was some trust lost.’
‘There really was, and I’m really offended.’
Rep. Chip Roy said there would be a ‘reckoning’ if the deal was passed, and ‘we’re going to have to then regroup and figure out the whole leadership arrangement again.’
Meanwhile Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., called the deal a ‘s*** sandwich’ and insisted the motion to vacate was on the table.
On Wednesday Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said McCarthy ‘should be concerned’ about a motion to vacate after the deal passes.
‘He will win the vote tonight, but after this vote we will have discussions about whether there should be a motion to vacate or not,’ he told CNN.
Jeffries did not rule out the possibility of Democrats stepping in to save McCarthy’s speakership, worried the Republican alternative could be less pragmatic.
‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,’ Jeffries told reporters, adding that Democrats have not discussed a ‘hypothetical.’
The debt limit deal includes $136 billion in budget cuts over the next two years – hardly a dent in the nation’s over $30 trillion in debt. But even libertarian-minded Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said in announcing he would support the deal: ‘I’ve been in Congress for a decade and this is the first real bill that cuts spending.’
He added that he hoped for further spending cuts in the 12 appropriations bills Congress must pass later this year.
Congress is also required under the new bill to approve 12 annual spending bills or face a snapback to spending limits from the previous year.
The bill also expands work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – even though the changes are a pared-down version of what conservatives really want.
While there are already work requirements for most able-bodied adults between 18 and 49, the bill raises the age limit to 54, but has an expiration date and would lower the age right back down to 49 in 2030.
The agreement would also make it more difficult for states to waive work requirements for SNAP by lowering the number of exemptions permitted at the state-level each month.
Democrats also won some new expanded benefits for veterans, homeless people and young people aging out of foster care. And in a last-minute snafu for Republicans, a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), actually said the amount spent on SNAP would increase by $2.1 billion given the new exemptions.
The deal also stipulated that student loan payments would resume August 29, but did not rescind President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program as Republicans had hoped.
The deal cuts some $21.4 billion from the IRS, which gained an additional $80 billion in funding from Democrats last Congress, but only immediately claws back $1.4 billion. White House officials said Biden agreed to shift $10 billion from the IRS to other funding priorities in fiscal year 2024 and another $10 billion in fiscal year 2025.
It also allows for Congress to claw back some $30 billion in unspent Covid-19 relief funds, but it remains to be seen whether states will actually send the money back or find ways to spend it.
The deal also included permitting reform provisions – and curiously stipulated an approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia – which Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., had been pushing for.