By LISA MASCARO, KEVIN FREKING and STEPHEN GROVES (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Under fire from conservatives, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy worked hard on Tuesday to sell fellow Republicans on the debt ceiling and budget deal he brokered with Speaker Joe Biden and get approval in time to avoid a potentially disastrous U.S. default.
Meeting behind closed doors over pizza for more than two hours on Capitol Hill, McCarthy explained the details to Republicans, answered questions and encouraged them not to lose sight of the bill’s budget savings, even if they are far below what many curators wanted.
“We’re going to pass the bill,” McCarthy said as he left the session.
The hard-fought measure is now heading for a vote in the House on Wednesday. Prompt approval by the House and Senate would ensure government checks continue to flow to Social Security recipients, veterans and others, and prevent global financial upheaval by allowing the Treasury to continue paying American debts.
Overall, the 99-page package limits spending for the next two years, lifts the debt ceiling and includes policy changes such as new work requirements for older Americans receiving food assistance and approval of an Appalachian energy pipeline that many Democrats oppose. The House Rules Committee voted 7-6 on Tuesday, with two Republicans opposed, to push the measure to the ground, signaling the tough vote yet to come.
With few lawmakers expected to be fully satisfied, Biden and McCarthy are counting on majority support from the political center, a rarity in divided Washington, to prevent a federal default. Some 218 votes are needed for passage to the Chamber of 435 members.
Leaders of the far-right House Freedom Caucus group blasted the compromise as falling far short of the spending cuts they are demanding, and they have vowed to try to prevent Congress from passing it. A much larger conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, refused to take a stand. Even the rank-and-file centrist conservatives weren’t sure, leaving McCarthy desperate for votes.
Biden was speaking directly to lawmakers, making more than 100 individual calls, the White House said. Senior administration officials are heading to Capitol Hill to brief Democrats privately ahead of Wednesday’s scheduled vote.
Late in the day, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said spending restrictions in the package would cut deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a major target for Republicans trying to cut the debt burden.
But in a surprise that could further erode Republican support, the GOP’s willingness to impose work requirements on older Americans receiving food stamps ends up increasing spending by $2.1 billion over the period. That’s because the final deal exempted veterans and the homeless, expanding food stamp rolls by some 78,000 people a month, the CBO said.
Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to garner the votes of about two-thirds of the Republican majority, a high bar the speaker might not be able to reach. Still, Jeffries said Democrats would do their part to avoid failure.
“I expect House Republicans to deliver on their promise and get at least 150 votes on a deal they brokered themselves,” Jeffries said. “The Democrats will ensure that the country does not default.”
McCarthy could expect no help from the far right.
“This deal is failing, utterly failing, and that’s why these members and others will absolutely oppose the deal,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., chairman of the Freedom Caucus, flanked by others outside the Capitol. “We will do everything in our power to stop it.”
Ominously, the Tories have warned of a potential attempt to oust McCarthy over the compromise.
“There’s going to be a settling of scores,” said Rep. Chip Roy of Texas.
Despite the late-night meeting at the Capitol, Rep. Nancy Mace, RS.C., said after the “healthy debate,” she was still no.
The Liberal Democrats have denounced the new work requirements for older Americans, those aged 50 to 54, under the food assistance program. And some Democratic lawmakers were leading a push against a surprise provision to greenlight a controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline natural gas project through Appalachia.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she appreciates Biden was able to downplay Republicans’ “extreme demands” on spending, but she raised serious concerns about food stamps and other environmental policy changes. .
She also had this warning for McCarthy: “He brought us here and it’s up to him to deliver the votes.”
Wall Street was taking a wait-and-see approach. Stock prices were mixed in Tuesday’s trading. US markets were closed when the deal was struck over the weekend.
Overall, the package is a compromise that would mandate some federal spending cuts for the next two years as well as a suspension of the debt ceiling until January 2025, pushing the volatile political issue beyond the next election. presidential. Raising the debt ceiling, now to $31.4 trillion, would allow the Treasury to continue borrowing to pay the country’s already incurred bills.
All told, this would keep spending essentially flat for the coming year, while allowing for increases for military and veterans accounts. It would cap growth at 1% for 2025.
Political issues raised the most objections.
Questions have also been raised about the unexpected provision that would essentially give congressional approval to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a major natural gas project for Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., which many Democrats and others oppose as useless in the fight against climate change.
The House Natural Resources Committee’s lead Democrat, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, said the inclusion of the pipeline provision was “disturbing and deeply disappointing.”
But Manchin on Tuesday touted the pipeline project as something “we know we need.”
The House aims to vote on Wednesday and send the bill to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senate Leader McConnell are working to pass it by the end of the week.
Schumer called the bill a “reasonable compromise.” McConnell said McCarthy “deserves our thanks”.
Senators, who remained largely on the sidelines for much of the negotiations between the President and Speaker of the House, began to insert themselves more forcefully into the debate.
Some senators are pushing for amendments to reshape the left and right flank package. This could require time-consuming debates which would delay the final approval of the agreement.
For one, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia was planning to file an amendment to remove the pipeline provision.
But making changes to the package at this point seemed unlikely with so little time to spare. Congress and the White House are racing to meet the Monday deadline in less than a week. That’s when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the US would run out of cash and face an unprecedented default without action.
A default would almost certainly hurt the US economy and spread around the world as the world’s reliance on the stability of the US dollar and the country’s leadership came into question.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani, Seung Min Kim, Farnoush Amiri, Darlene Superville and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
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