WASHINGTON — With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House voted Wednesday to pass debt ceiling legislation negotiated by President Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden, sending it to the Senate days before a potentially disastrous default. .
The vote was 314 to 117 with 149 Republicans joining 165 Democrats.
The bill would extend the debt limit by two years along with a two-year budget agreement if signed into law. It is the culmination of months of political warfare and weeks of frantic negotiations between the two sides that finally broke a long deadlock on the issue.
The McCarthy-Biden deal overcame strong criticism from hardline Republicans, who argued that its spending cuts and conservative provisions are too weak. He also faced opposition from Democrats, who criticized the additional job requirements and non-defense spending cuts negotiated by the two men.
“They’re getting so many victories for the American people on this bill,” McCarthy said, hailing it as a move that “moves us in the right direction” fiscally. He said his message to his fellow Republicans on Wednesday was: “You’re not spending any more money. There are no new government programs. There are no tax increases. There is nothing in the bill that really should be negative.»
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Biden praised the approval.
“This budget deal is a bipartisan commitment,” Biden said in a statement. «None of the parties got everything they wanted. That is the responsibility of governing.»
The bill now goes to the Democratic-led Senate, where it needs 60 votes before it can reach Biden’s desk. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., endorsed it and called for speedy passage.
The White House has urged passage of the bill as the United States nears a Monday deadline to act or risk an economically catastrophic default on the nation’s debt. The agreement contains modest spending cuts and suspends the borrowing limit until January 1, 2025, at which time the Treasury will be able to use extraordinary measures to pay the bills.
House Republican leaders have always expected to lose some votes, mostly from far-right members who say the deal isn’t aggressive enough to win spending cuts. That meant some Democrats were needed to get to the finish line.
«House Democrats will make sure the country doesn’t go into default, full stop,» said Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. “We will continue to be responsible stewards of our economy. And we will not allow middle-class Americans, working families, middle-class aspirants, seniors, veterans, the poor, the sick, and the grieving to be affected by a dangerous default fabricated by the Republican Party.»
The legislation would cap spending for the next two years. It includes conservative measures that would recover about $28 billion in unspent Covid relief funds, remove $1.4 billion in IRS funds, and shift approximately $20 billion of the $80 billion the IRS got through of the Inflation Reduction Act to non-defense funds.
The bill would also restart federal student loan payments after a long hiatus that began at the start of the pandemic. And it would add work requirements for people up to age 55 to get benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (the current threshold is 50), with exceptions for veterans and the homeless.
Biden-McCarthy makes no changes to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
A analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that if the bill’s spending limits and targets are followed, it would reduce federal discretionary spending by $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years. However, only the first two years of spending levels are binding under the legislation.
The SNAP reforms would actually result in a net spending increase of $2.1 billion, the CBO found. The new work rules would save $6.5 billion, but the new homeless and veteran exclusions would add 78,000 new people to SNAP benefit rolls and cost $8.6 billion.
Far-right members broke with the measure.
Rep. Dan Bishop, RN.C., said the conservative policy provisions were actually «fictitious suggestions for change» that are meaningless. “In effect, what they have done” is a “clean” debt limit extension with no substantive political additions, he argued, describing it as a surrender to Biden’s demands.
«And so there’s nothing there,» Bishop said. «If you’re going to tacitly make a clean debt ceiling, make it short.»
Opposing senators like Mike Lee, R-Utah, have procedural tools they could use to try to push it past the Monday deadline. Schumer has encouraged members to act quickly to avoid default.
«Senators should be prepared to move this bill forward quickly once it is the Senate’s turn to act. I cannot stress enough that we have no room, no room, for error,» Schumer said Wednesday, warning that «any unnecessary delay, any last minute risk» could mean that «the federal government will default for the first time in history.»
McConnell was quick to praise the bill’s passage in the House on Twitter, adding: «Now, it is the Senate’s turn to pass this deal without delay.»
Alexandra Cod, kate santaliz, julia jester and frank thorp contributed.