The Biden-McCarthy Debt Ceiling Deal Passes Big Procedural Hurdle in the House

The debt ceiling deal struck by GOP Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of California and President Joe Biden passed a crucial hurdle Tuesday evening that should allow lawmakers in the House to vote on the agreement Wednesday evening

The House Rules Committee approved the terms of debate for the legislation implementing the agreement by a 7-6 vote on Tuesday evening. However, a successful vote wasn’t a sure thing, as three GOP committee members had indicated either opposition or possible opposition to the agreement. 

Republicans hold a 9-4 advantage in the Rules Committee. The difference means that if three Republicans voted against it as well as every Democrat, the bill that would solidify the McCarthy-Biden deal could not be put up for consideration on the House floor. 

In the final committee vote, only GOP Representatives Chip Roy of Texas, and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, voted against it, along with all four Democrats. It allowed the vote to pass and set up votes on the floor of the House Wednesday. 

Parties blamed each other for quickly rushing to lift the debt ceiling

While the legislation is predicted to pass on a bipartisan vote, the opposing parties used the hearing to blame each other for quickly rushing to lift the debt ceiling only days before the day the federal government is expected to run out of money. 

Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to “default on America” by passing the initial debt limit bill, the Limit, Save, Grow Act, and continued criticizing the strengthened work requirements Speaker McCarthy’s team negotiated for individuals who receive federal assistance. 

Although some members of the GOP praised the legislation, backing the speaker’s effort to secure some cuts in spending, others argue the bill doesn’t do enough to clamp down on spending.

“This bill is smoke and mirrors,” Norman said. “I get why the Democrats are voting for it…because they get pretty much what they want.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, a Republican from Missouri, challenged Representative Norman’s assertion in the hearing. 

“This bill is clearly not everything I want by any means; I wanted a lot more. But, it’s definitely better than the blank check debt limit that the president was pushing,” said Smith.

Roy said the projected $2 trillion in savings from the bill is “a fiction” and cited an estimate that the legislation would add another $4 trillion to the national debt. 

“We ought to do better. The Limit, Save, Grow Act was a responsible approach to actually reduce spending, to change how this town works,” said Roy. “This doesn’t represent any material change in the direction the country is going in terms of spending.”

The third House Freedom Caucus Member on the Rules Committee, GOP Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, revealed during the hearing that he would vote in favor of moving it forward to the House floor — and leaving it open to whether he would support it or not. 

The ultimate agreement reached over the weekend suspends the debt limit without a cap through January 1, 2025, while additionally cutting non-defense spending to the almost fiscal year 2022 levels and caps growth at 1% for the next two years while proposing caps that are non-mandatory for the following four years. It also pulls back some money aimed at the Internal Revenue Service and some Covid-19 pandemic funds that remain unspent. 

At least 50 proposed amendments by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were rejected by the Rules Committee to keep the deal as negotiated between the White House and House GOP leaders.