House Passes Speaker McCarthy’s Debt Ceiling Bill by Two Votes — Four Republicans Vote Against

House GOP on Wednesday delivered the biggest win of his tenure as Speaker of the House by passing his bill to slash spending and raise the debt limit on Wednesday. The bill serves as the Republicans’ position on avoiding the debt crisis in the coming weeks. 

The bill passed by a slim 217-215 vote. All Democrats voted against it, which was expected, along with four Republicans: Matt Gaetz of Florida, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Ken Buck of Colorado. 

Republicans cast a vote to make a strong point before negotiations they hope will happen with President Joe Biden in the upcoming weeks. The president has refused to consider anything other than a clean increase in the debt ceiling. At the same time, the GOP insists he should agree to some trimming of the federal budget as a condition of lifting the government’s borrowing limit. 

“We have lifted the debt ceiling, so nobody could worry about whether the debt ceiling is going to get lifted; we did it. The Democrats have not. The president wants to make sure the debt ceiling is going to be lifted? Sign this bill,” said McCarthy in a press conference following the vote. 

In a call with reporters after the vote, House Republicans made it clear the ball is now in the president’s court. When asked by a cable news network how they plan to try to convince their members to vote for a version of the bill after McCarthy and Biden speak, assuming Dems will push for changes to the legislation, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Majority Whip Tom Emmer, and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik replied.

“We are the only chamber that has done our job,” said Rep. Stefanik of New York. “[Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer] needs to get [to] the negotiation table, as does President Joe Biden.”

Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, said,” The negotiations need to happen on the Democrat side — in the Senate in the White House — not in the Republican-led House because we had those negotiations and came up with a bill that saves taxpayers money and grows our economy. At the end of the day, it’s President Biden who can no longer sit on the sidelines.”

With an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, the federal government can pay its bills sometime around the beginning of June. 

Vote came after several dissenting GOP lawmakers got in line behind McCarthy

Wednesday’s vote in the House came after several dissenting Republican lawmakers gradually got in line behind McCarthy after spending several hours in the Speaker’s office the day prior. 

For example, GOP Representative Nancy Mace of North Carolina told reporters she was unhappy with the legislation and how leaders put it together Wednesday morning and emerged later in the afternoon from the Speaker’s office with a different opinion. 

“We had a very productive meeting; it was very good. I feel like our voice has been heard and that we’re going to work on this together going forward,” Mace said. 

All four GOP members of the Iowa House delegation released a joint statement hours before the vote announcing their intent to offer their support of the bill. The lawmakers were part of a group of around seven or eight legislators from the Corn Belt concerned about the initial bill’s tax credit repeal that would obstruct ethanol production in the state. 

“Having successfully amended the bill to protect funding for these tax credits, our delegation will vote for this legislation, which is a starting point to avoid default and cut wasteful spending,” read the statement.

Republican leaders tweaked the bill overnight to soothe concerns from crucial GOP factions who appeared ready to vote against it on Tuesday. The changes softened the repeal of tax credits for biofuel and moved the legislation’s planned implementation of work requirements for federal benefits from 2025 to 2024. 

The changes were enough to sway GOP Representatives George Santos of New York and Derrick Van Order of Wisconsin, who confirmed they were now solid “yes” votes on the legislation. 

The Limit, Save, Grow Act aims to lift the debt limit by $1.5 trillion through the end of March 2024 or by $1.5 trillion, whichever is hit first. It also limits spending increases to 1% over the next decade. In the meantime, it also caps discretionary spending to 2022 fiscal levels. 

In the Senate, the bill faces an uphill battle, where Democrat Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has criticized the GOP for trying to pair raising the debt limit with spending cuts. 

President Biden threatened to veto the bill if it came to his desk and refused Wednesday again to negotiate to combine the debt limit increase with spending cuts. The president’s position is supported by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York, who accused the GOP on the House floor of going down “a dangerous path” and presiding over “exploding deficits” with their legislation.