Biden Rallies Democratic Backing, McCarthy Courts GOP Ahead of House Debt Ceiling Vote

by Joshua Brown
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The impending House vote on the debt ceiling and budget cuts package sees President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy rallying centrist Democrats and Republicans respectively, amid strong conservative opposition and some dissension from progressives.

Biden has deployed senior White House officials for a Wednesday meeting at the Capitol to solidify support before the vote. Meanwhile, McCarthy is laboring to win over doubtful Republicans, even warding off leadership threats, in a bid to prevent a potentially catastrophic U.S. default.

Despite discontent from hardline Republicans that the compromise does not meet their requested spending cuts, McCarthy confidently asserts he will secure the necessary votes for approval.

“The bill will be passed,” McCarthy declared upon leaving a prolonged late Tuesday night meeting at the Capitol.

The swift House approval and a subsequent Senate vote later this week will ensure continued payments to Social Security recipients, veterans, and others, thereby averting financial chaos domestically and internationally. The U.S. Treasury predicts the country will exhaust its funds for debt payments by next Monday, posing a risk of a dangerous economic default.

The bill, although failing to satisfy all lawmakers, finds Biden and McCarthy striving to win majority backing from the political center—a unique scenario in polarized Washington, putting the leadership skills of both the president and the Republican speaker to the test.

The extensive 99-page bill curtails spending for the next two years, suspends the debt ceiling until January 2025, and introduces policy changes, which include new work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid and controversial approval for an Appalachian natural gas pipeline, widely opposed by Democrats.

During a more than two-hour session late Tuesday, as assistants brought pizza into the Capitol, McCarthy carefully walked Republicans through the bill’s details, answered queries, and urged them to focus on the bill’s budget savings.

Despite facing some stiff resistance, McCarthy encountered substantial opposition from the House Freedom Caucus’s leaders who criticised the compromise for not meeting their demanded spending cuts and pledged to thwart Congressional approval.

In spite of these challenges, Biden reached out to lawmakers directly, making over 100 individual calls, as reported by the White House.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office stated that the package’s spending limitations would reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, aligning with Republicans’ intent to decrease the debt burden.

However, the Republican effort to enforce work requirements for older Americans receiving food stamps unexpectedly raised spending by $2.1 billion over the time period due to exemptions for veterans and homeless people, thereby expanding the food stamp recipients by approximately 78,000 per month, according to the CBO.

Meanwhile, the responsibility of securing votes from approximately two-thirds of the Republican majority, a high hurdle that McCarthy might struggle to clear, falls onto the speaker, as stated by House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Nevertheless, Jeffries affirms that Democrats will contribute to prevent failure. “Democrats will ensure that the country does not default,” he said.

Progressive Democrats expressed their dissatisfaction with the new work requirements for older Americans in the food aid program. Additionally, some Democratic legislators led efforts to eliminate the surprise clause for the Mountain Valley Pipeline natural gas project, a provision crucial to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., but generally opposed as it contributes to climate change.

On the other hand, Wall Street remained in watch-and-wait mode with mixed stock prices during Tuesday’s trading.

The House plans to conduct procedural votes Wednesday afternoon, with final action expected later in the evening. The bill will then proceed to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader McConnell aim for passage by the end of the week.

While some senators insist on amendments to reshape the package from both liberal and conservative perspectives, changes seem unlikely given the time constraints before Monday’s deadline.

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