House Republicans passed a bill package Wednesday to raise the debt limit through early next year while deeply reducing government spending, setting up a contentious standoff with Democrats as the bill heads to the Senate.
The legislation, called the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, passed 217 to 215 with no Democrat support. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Tim Burchett (R-KY), and Ken Buck (R-CO) defected.
The passage is a victory for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who touts the bill as a negotiating tool that forces President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) into talks with him on spending cuts in exchange for a debt limit increase.
“We cannot sit back and ignore the problem like the president has,” McCarthy said. “We want to sit down. We want to work together, and that’s exactly what this bill does, to put us in an ability to negotiate.”
The bill comes in response to the U.S. approaching its debt ceiling as early as this summer. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned of “economic catastrophe” if Congress and Biden do not move to suspend or increase the nation’s borrowing limit.
Biden and Schumer have been angling for a “clean” debt ceiling hike, meaning they want to raise it without the spending reductions House Republicans are aiming for.
Republicans’ current proposal, the Limit, Save, Grow Act, would save $4.8 trillion over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Biden, who has vowed to veto the bill, taunted House Republicans hours ahead of its passage when asked about GOP criticisms that the president has been “missing in action” on negotiations.
“They haven’t figured out the debt limit yet,” Biden said laughing, adding, “I’m happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended. That’s not negotiable.”
President Biden on debt limit negotiations: “They haven’t figured out the debt limit yet…I’m happy to meet with McCarthy but not on whether or not debt limit gets extended. That’s not negotiable.” pic.twitter.com/urzrNpBmAE
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 26, 2023
Passage of this bill, a significant feat for Republicans in the narrowly divided House, weakens Biden’s and Schumer’s positions, however, now that the House GOP is staring them down with a show of unity around a debt limit plan.
“I think part of their strategy is they were going to try to call our bluff,” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), a member of Republican leadership, told Breitbart News. “They didn’t believe we could actually get this done, so this is a really important and symbolic thing for us to do today.”
The package, which raises the debt ceiling through early next year, is packed with conservative priorities.
It includes blocking Biden’s student loan bailout, rescinding unspent money allocated toward coronavirus, expanding work requirements for welfare recipients, repealing recent IRS funding and certain climate-related portions of the “Inflation Reduction Act,” and limiting discretionary spending growth to one percent per year for ten years.
Achieving consensus on the legislation was however a challenge for McCarthy, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN), and others in leadership.
Related — Watch: McCarthy Vows the Limit, Save, Grow Act “Will Pass”
Emmer had been whipping votes on it since February, but in the days leading up to the vote, more than a half dozen Republicans were showing reservations or outright opposition to voting for the bill.
Among them were a group of Midwesterners worried about a biofuel tax credit repeal, Gaetz and embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) taking issue with the provision on work requirements for welfare recipients, and Burchett discouraged by leadership missing a meeting with him as well as the sheer magnitude of the current debt level ($31 trillion).
House Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) appeared noncommittal on the legislation until the day of the vote, indicating after the bill was slightly modified in the Rules Committee early Wednesday morning that he supported.
While the bill “isn’t perfect,” it is “a huge step,” Perry stated.
Despite unsatisfied defectors and voting absences that threatened to derail the bill, GOP leaders maintained unflinching confidence that it would pass, and concerned parties streamed in and out of McCarthy’s office all week as the speaker sought to make certain he had the votes.
Schumer has assured his party the bill is dead on arrival in the Senate, deriding it as the “Default on America Act” and contending that it forces “Americans to accept either a punch to the gut or a blow to the head.”
The majority leader has shown no signs of a willingness to cooperate with House Republicans at this stage.
The bill is “a ransom note to the American people to suffer the Republican radical, right-wing agenda or suffer a catastrophic default. Democrats won’t allow it,” Schumer said.
The Republican Default on America Act is DOA in the Senate.
It’s a ransom note to the American people to suffer the Republican radical, right-wing agenda or suffer a catastrophic default.
Democrats won’t allow it.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 26, 2023