As the June 5 default deadline looms, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are working tirelessly to secure congressional passage for the debt-limit agreement they forged. With less than a week remaining, the leaders have been engaged in intense lobbying efforts over the Memorial Day holiday to garner enough support within their respective parties, aiming for a House vote expected on Wednesday.
The road ahead is not without obstacles, as both Biden and McCarthy anticipate opposition from within their own ranks. If they can overcome this resistance, the agreement will move to the Senate, where a single objection could trigger time-consuming procedures, pushing the United States perilously close to its first-ever default.
During a press conference on Monday, President Biden expressed cautious optimism, stating, “I never say I’m confident about what the Congress is going to do, but I feel very good about it.” Representative Brendan Boyle, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, also voiced confidence, noting the clear momentum the measure has gained among Democrats.
In the meantime, Representative Garret Graves, one of McCarthy’s key negotiators, expressed confidence in the outcome, stating, “It’s pretty clear based on their public statements and where we are now that we’re the clear victors.” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has also expressed staunch support for the agreement, as has McCarthy, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries have been more reserved in their remarks, likely aiming to ensure that McCarthy and McConnell bear the responsibility of rallying the necessary votes.
The bill at the center of this agreement establishes federal spending plans until 2025 and suspends the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025. This extension is expected to defer another showdown over federal borrowing authority until the middle of that year. In a compromise, Democrats agreed to cap federal spending for the next two years in exchange for Republican votes on the suspension. While the White House claims the deal will reduce spending by approximately $1 trillion over a decade, Republicans argue that the spending cuts are twice as substantial. Notably, some conservatives had sought even deeper reductions.
Congressional GOP leaders, undeterred by conservative opposition, are pushing forward with their plans for a House vote on Wednesday. The House Rules Committee will play a crucial role in the early stages of this process, as they are set to vote on the rule governing the debate over the measure. While typically partisan in nature, this particular vote has drawn attention due to the criticism voiced by Republican Representatives Chip Roy and Ralph Norman. Both have emerged as strong critics of the deal negotiated by Biden and McCarthy. Conservatives on the House Rules Committee hold significant leverage in blocking the bill. As Roy noted, McCarthy had previously promised conservatives that any measure would require the support of at least seven Republican votes before leaving the Rules Committee.
Although criticism of the deal has primarily come from a small group of House Republicans, national security-minded Republicans, led by Senator Lindsey Graham, have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the modest 3% increase in defense spending. However, with the Treasury Department Secretary Janet Yellen setting a June 5 deadline for raising the debt ceiling, they find themselves with limited options for reworking the deal.