It took President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy months to agree on a debt ceiling compromise. Now comes another challenge: Getting the pact through a divided Congress in a matter of days.
The concessions needed to get the deal done are already unpopular with certain members on both sides of the aisle, complicating efforts to squeeze legislation through the House and the Senate before the US runs out of money to pay its bills. That day could come as early as June 5.
The House, where Republicans have a 222-213 majority, is up first. McCarthy said the chamber will vote on the pact Wednesday, after having had 72 hours to review the specific legislation.
Before the legislation can come to a vote on the House floor, it has to pass through the House Rules Committee, which will hold a hearing at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss the bill. Two hardliners on the committee — Representatives Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) — said they'll oppose the deal, but McCarthy said Monday he is not worried about the bill getting through the panel.
Norman and Roy are among at least six Republicans that have already made it clear they intend to vote no if the legislation hits the House floor. Another, Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, even tweeted a vomit emoji over the weekend to show his distaste. Rep. Norman tweeted that the deal was "insanity," while Rep. Roy called it a "turd-sandwich."
Heard the call. RINOs congratulating McCarthy for getting almost zippo in exchange for $4T debt ceiling hike was enough to make you 🤮.
(Actually, it’s so bad they won’t give a figure for the debt ceiling hike … only that it’s suspended til Q1 2025. Our bill was a year less.)
— Rep. Dan Bishop (@RepDanBishop) May 28, 2023
'I feel very good about it'
Some progressive Democrats are also not happy with certain provisions, including stronger work requirements for food-stamp recipients. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a House Progressive Caucus member, told NBC News Sunday that he was undecided and that "my sense is a large majority of the House Democratic Caucus is in flux as to where they’re going to be on this."
Biden said Monday that he had been calling Democratic lawmakers to ask for their support and that there was "no reason" it couldn't get passed by June 5.
"I feel very good about it," the president said. "I'm confident that we'll get a vote in both Houses."
The centerpiece of the legislation is a cap on federal spending. It would hold spending flat for 2024 and impose new limits for 2025 without touching Social Security and Medicare while boosting spending on the military by 3%.
The legislation would also increase work requirements in order to qualify for food assistance, an incentive for people to find jobs.
In exchange, the nation's borrowing limit would be boosted for more than two more years. That would take the full faith and credit of the US off the negotiating table through the next presidential election and give the markets an extended breather on an issue that regularly threatens economic chaos.
Some House Republicans wanted the spending cuts to be deeper, as proposed in a separate piece of legislation passed by GOP lawmakers in April.
Passage of the debt ceiling compromise requires support from 218 lawmakers in the House. Leaders from both parties are predicting it will pass.
The path through the Senate
If it survives a vote in the House, the legislation would then move to the Senate where Democrats hold a slim 51-49 majority. One challenge there is whether a vote can happen quickly or not.
I will use every procedural tool at my disposal to impede a debt-ceiling deal that doesn’t contain substantial spending and budgetary reforms. I fear things are moving in that direction. If they do, that proposal will not face smooth sailing in the Senate.
— Mike Lee (@BasedMikeLee) May 25, 2023
It can if all 100 senators agree, setting up a vote before the end of the week. But any one senator can choose to hold things up for days with amendment votes. A filibuster could delay a final vote beyond the June 5th default deadline set by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney on Monday voiced his support for the bill, saying it prevents a default and "financial meltdown" while also limiting spending.
At least one Republican senator, Mike Lee, has warned that he might offer resistance. Last week he said on Twitter that "I will use every procedural tool at my disposal to impede a debt ceiling deal that doesn’t contain substantial spending and budgetary reforms."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told members Sunday that they should be prepared for "potential Friday and weekend votes" because of "the time it may take to process the legislation in the Senate without cooperation."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked his colleagues to "swiftly" approve the bill. The agreement, he added, "makes urgent progress toward preserving our nation's full faith and credit and a much-needed step toward getting its financial house in order."
"There's still some uncertainty over whether the bill will pass both houses at first attempt," wrote Capital Economics economist Paul Ashworth in a research note.
"But if it doesn't, we suspect that a more alarmed reaction in financial markets will quickly focus minds in Congress and...it will pass shortly after that," perhaps by next weekend.