House GOP Passes Debt Bill, Trying to Pressure Biden

Democratic leader calls package 'unconscionable'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 26, 2023 5:45 PM CDT
House Passes Debt Limit Bill by 2 Votes, Pressuring Biden
A staffer with the Republican leadership holds a guide to Speaker Kevin McCarthy's debt ceiling package during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Republicans passed sweeping legislation Wednesday that would raise the government's legal debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion in exchange for steep spending restrictions, a tactical victory for Speaker Kevin McCarthy as he challenges President Biden to negotiate and prevent a catastrophic federal default this summer. The bill passed by a razor-thin 217-215 margin, the AP reports; Republicans hold a five-seat House majority and faced several absences this week. Biden has threatened to veto the Republican package, which has almost no chance of passing the Democratic Senate in the meantime, and the president has so far refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling, which the White House insists must be lifted with no strings attached to ensure America pays its bills.

But McCarthy's ability to unite his slim majority and bring the measure to passage over opposition from Democrats and even holdouts in his own party gives currency to the Republican speaker's strategy to use the vote as an opening bid forcing Biden into talks. The two men could hardly be further apart on how to resolve the issue. "The hour has come, we have to work together to restore fiscal sanity in this place before it's too late," said Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington, leading the debate. As the House debated the bill, Biden on Wednesday indicated he was willing to open the door to talks with McCarthy but not on preventing a first-ever US default that would shake America's economy and beyond. "Happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended," Biden said, per the AP. "That's not negotiable."

Passage of the 320-page package in the House is only the start of what is expected to become a weekslong slog as the president and Congress try to work out a compromise that would allow the nation's debt, now at $31 trillion, to be lifted to allow further borrowing and stave off a fiscal crisis. The nation has never defaulted on its debt, and the House Republican majority hopes to maneuver Biden into a corner with its plan to roll back federal spending to fiscal 2022 levels and cap future spending increases at 1% over the next decade. McCarthy worked past midnight to unite his fractious majority, making changes in the Rules Committee to win over holdouts. "This bill is unacceptable, it's unreasonable, it's unworkable, it's unconscionable—and it's un-American," said Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries. "That's why we oppose it."

(More debt ceiling stories.)

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