The House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation negotiated by President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy to suspend the debt ceiling and set limits on federal spending, as a broad bipartisan coalition lined up to cast the crucial vote to pull the nation back from the brink of economic disaster.
The bill would delay the federal debt limit by two years — allowing the government to borrow unlimited amounts as necessary to pay its obligations — while imposing two years of spending limits and a series of policy changes Republicans have demanded in exchange for allowing the country to avoid them. catastrophic default. The 314-117 vote came days before the nation exhausted its borrowing limits, and days after a protracted series of talks between White House negotiators and top House Republicans resulted in a breakthrough deal.
As lawmakers from the far right and the hard left rebelled over the deal, it fell to a bipartisan coalition backed by Democrats to push the bill to the finish line, throwing their support behind compromise in an effort to break a fiscal deadlock that had gripped Washington for weeks. In the final vote, 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats supported the measure, while 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats opposed it.
That was a blow to the Republican president, whose hard-won victory over the measure was dwarfed by the fact that more Democrats ultimately voted for the bill than members of his own party.
The measure nearly collapsed on its way to the House floor, when hard-line Republicans sought to block consideration of it, and in a suspenseful scene, Democrats waited several minutes before swooping in to give their votes to a procedural measure that allowed the plan to move. Before.
The deal would suspend the $31.4 trillion borrowing limit through January 2025. It would cut federal spending by $1.5 trillion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, by effectively freezing some funding that was expected to increase next year and then limiting spending to 1% growth. In 2025, which is considered downward because it will be at a level below inflation. The legislation would also impose stricter business requirements for food stamps, recover some funding for IRS enforcement and unspent coronavirus relief money, speed up authorization of new energy projects and formally end Mr. Biden’s student loan repayment freeze.
The settlement was structured with the aim of attracting votes from both sides. It allows Republicans, who have refused to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default unconditionally, to say they have succeeded in reducing some federal spending — even as funding for military and veterans programs continues to grow — while allowing Democrats to say they exempt most local programs from severe cuts.
Mr McCarthy framed the bill on Wednesday as “a small step that puts us on the right track” and urged his members to support it.
“This is a huge victory,” Mr. McCarthy said in a speech on the House floor.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. and minority leader, called the deal a vital step and thanked Democrats for their “efforts to make sure that we delay the efforts of the ultra-Republican MAGA to jam the right-wing down the throats of the American people.”
“From the beginning, House Democrats have been clear that we will not allow radical MAGA Republicans to default on our debt, crash the economy, or cause a job-killing recession,” Jeffries said. “Under President Joe Biden’s leadership, Democrats have kept our promise.”
Mr. Biden hailed the law’s passage as “a critical step forward in preventing the first-ever default.”
“This budget agreement is a bipartisan compromise,” Biden, who called congressional leaders after the vote, said in a statement. “Neither side got everything it wanted.”
Soon after the bill passed the House, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY and majority leader, moved to expedite its introduction in that chamber, where it was expected to be considered quickly. Schumer warned earlier in the day that senators would need to pass the bill without changes to meet the June 5 deadline when Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the government would default without action by Congress.
“I cannot stress enough,” he said, “that we have no margin for error.” “Either we move forward quickly and send this bipartisan agreement to the President’s desk or the federal government will default for the first time ever.”
Wednesday’s vote was a major victory for Mr. McCarthy, the California Republican, who has faced a major challenge in shepherding a debt-ceiling increase with a narrowly divided room populated by Republicans who have long refused to raise the borrowing limit. Few would have predicted that Mr. McCarthy would be able to unite his fragmented convention around any such measure, let alone one that negotiated with Mr. Biden, without the right wing pushing to try to oust him.
As of Wednesday, no such effort materialized, though there were still political consequences awaiting McCarthy after a vote that reflected the depth of Republican opposition to the deal he struck.
Rep. Dan Bishop, R-North Carolina and a member of the House Freedom Caucus, has said publicly that he views the debt and the spending deal as grounds for removing Mr. McCarthy from office. Another member of the group, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Col., told CNN that members of the group would have “discussions about” trying to oust him.
“I am not suggesting there are votes to remove the speaker, but the speaker has promised that we will work at the allocation levels for 2022 when he gets the support to be the speaker,” Mr. Buck said. “He has now changed that to the 2023 levels plus one percent. That is a big change for a lot of people.”
Under rules adopted by House Republicans at the start of the year that helped McCarthy become president, any single lawmaker can call a snap vote to remove him, a move that requires a majority in the House.
Far-right MPs were furious at the settlement, attacking the bill and Mr McCarthy’s handling of the negotiations as treasonous.
“Nobody sent us here to borrow $4 trillion more to get anything at all,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who promised to “account for what just happened.”
In an expression of their displeasure, 29 conservative Republicans took the unusual step of breaking ranks on a procedural vote to adopt the legislation, usually a formality that passes entirely along party lines.
In a rousing panel on the House floor, with Republican defections piling up, jeopardizing the deal, Mr. Jeffries finally raised a green ballot in the air, signaling to his fellow Democrats that it was time to move on and save the Republicans. A stream of centrist and veteran Democrats — 52 in all — swarmed the House well and voted “yes,” saving the deal from collapsing.
In the final vote on the bill, Mr McCarthy managed to muster nearly two-thirds of the Republican vote for the plan – achieving the goal he had set – while a huge bloc of Democrats rallied in support of it.
But progressive Democrats bristled at the bill, and some said they could not support new labor requirements for safety net programs or reward Republican use of the debt ceiling as a political stick.
“Republicans need to own that vote,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has focused specifically on changes to the Supplemental Food Assistance Program and a measure to speed pipeline gas production. This was their agreement. This was their negotiation. They’re the ones trying to go in and cut SNAP, cut environmental protections, try to hack the oil pipeline through a community that doesn’t want it.”
“This was a hostage situation,” said Rep. Greg Cassar of Texas. We will get out of the hostage situation. I appreciate the president negotiating the ransom payment for the hostage but I think it’s appropriate for progressives to say we don’t want to be in that position again.”
Adding to the growing discontent are provisions in the deal that recoup some unspent money from an earlier pandemic relief bill, and a $10 billion cut — to $70 billion from $80 billion — of new IRS enforcement funding to crack down on tax fraud. They’ve also been enthusiastic about measures intended to speed up authorization for energy projects and force the president to find budget savings to offset the costs of a unilateral measure, such as waiving student loans—though administration officials could have circumvented that requirement.
The agreement also includes measures aimed at averting a government shutdown later this year.
Hard-right Republicans like Bishop have called the provisions “crumbs”, saying Mr McCarthy failed to win the kind of deep spending cuts Congress put into a debt-limit bill the House passed in April. The measure would have cut government programs by an average of 18 percent over a decade in exchange for an increase in the debt limit.
Carl HulseAnd Luke BroadwaterAnd Jim Tankersley And Annie Carney Contribute to the preparation of reports.