Debt-limit bill overcomes key hurdle with House passage in sight

Tribune Content Agency

WASHINGTON — The debt-limit deal struck by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden cleared a major hurdle in the House, lining the compromise legislation up for passage Wednesday night as the U.S. quickly approaches a June 5 deadline to avert a default.

The House voted, 241-187, to take a procedural step needed to consider the measure. Such votes setting the rules for debate are nearly always decided along party lines, but McCarthy needed votes from Democrats to offset 29 Republican “no” votes, underscoring the divide within his own party over the legislation.

The compromise drew opposition from lawmakers on the flanks of both parties as the vote approached.

But Biden, McCarthy and their lieutenants have worked the phones since concluding the deal Saturday night to build a large enough coalition of moderates to muster the requisite 218 votes for passage in the House.

“I think things are going as planned,” Biden told reporters at the White House, before he was due to leave for Colorado. “God willing, by the time I land, Congress will have acted, the House will have acted, and we’ll be one step closer.”

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican, said early Wednesday that he’s sure the votes are in hand. “It’s going to pass,” he said.

The bill will next go to the Senate, where objections from conservatives could force days of debate. But John Thune, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, said Wednesday that there could be a deal to pass the bill by Friday night, days ahead of the June 5 default deadline.

The bill would set the course for federal spending for the next two years and suspend the debt ceiling until Jan. 1, 2025 — postponing another clash over borrowing until after the presidential election.

In exchange for Republican votes for the suspension, Democrats agreed to cap federal spending for the next two years. The White House is telling lawmakers the deal would lower spending by about $1 trillion over a decade, while the GOP argues the spending cut is double that.

House conservatives have blasted the deal for not doing more to curb federal spending. One, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, has said he’ll call for a vote to remove McCarthy from his job. No other Republicans have explicitly joined him.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, one of McCarthy’s chief negotiators on the bill, expressed confidence in McCarthy, telling reporters that the Wednesday vote will show that Washington underestimated the speaker.

Several Democrats — even those opposed to the legislation — have vowed not to let the U.S. default. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, a liberal Democrat, doesn’t back the bill but signaled she would ultimately support it if her vote was needed for passage.

Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal came out against the bill because of cuts to social and environmental programs. Much of her caucus, which numbers about 100 Democrats, will oppose the bill.

“I do think it’s important that we put up a very strong no vote and that we don’t give them one vote more than what they need,” Jayapal said.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday estimated that the bill would cut deficits by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.


(Bloomberg staff writers Emily Wilkins, Zach C. Cohen and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this story.)