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Debt ceiling legislation clears a hurdle and moves to House floor for a vote

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The House of Representatives is on track to vote today on the deal to suspend the nation's debt limit.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Yeah. But several ultraconservative and progressive lawmakers are unhappy with the compromise bill. Supporters, though, argue the deal is necessary to avoid a catastrophic debt default.

MARTÍNEZ: Here's NPR's congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Is this bill passing today?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: So Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his allies have repeatedly said they're confident it will pass tonight. This deal is similar to ones that we have seen before in divided government. It has modest spending reforms in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling. The debt limit is raised for two years, past the 2024 presidential election. In terms of the spending cuts, the speaker and President Biden negotiated. They agreed not to include Social Security and Medicare as part of the talks and to protect defense programs. So McCarthy said yesterday that limited what this deal could address.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: We couldn't get everything we wanted. And when we have this debate, you couldn't talk about the whole budget. So in essence, we are only able to focus on about 11% of the budget.

WALSH: And the speaker keeps saying it's going to take votes from both parties to pass it tonight.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what about Democrats then? Are they getting on board with the deal that President Biden helped make?

WALSH: You know, many are. The president's been making a lot of calls to Democrats on the Hill, but a lot of progressives say the president shouldn't have negotiated on the debt ceiling at all with the House Republicans. Some are still upset about the policy provisions that were added to the bill. One would reform how new energy projects get approved. Another would add some new work requirements for adults without dependents who receive assistance like food stamps. Those new requirements would be in place through 2030. But the White House did get agreement to exclude some groups of people - veterans, people experiencing homelessness and some others - who get aid from federal safety net programs from any work requirements. So in the end, more people could receive these benefits. One Democrat, Pennsylvania Congressman Brendan Boyle, wasn't enthusiastic about backing this deal, but he summed up where Democrats find themselves right now.

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BRENDAN BOYLE: This bipartisan bill is not perfect. In fact, I've yet to meet one person who loves it. Perhaps that is a sign that it is a fair compromise between a narrowly Republican House and a narrowly Democratic Senate and, of course, a Democratic White House.

MARTÍNEZ: So to what Boyle is saying, there are more than a few House Republicans that do not love it, Deirdre. Could this threaten McCarthy's job as speaker?

WALSH: For now, no one is pushing to remove him. Remember, part of the deal McCarthy cut to get the votes to be elected speaker in January was to agree to a rules change that would allow just any one member to offer a resolution to remove the House speaker. Texas Republican Chip Roy argued no Republican should vote for this debt deal. He warned yesterday there would be consequences without mentioning the speaker by name.

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CHIP ROY: No matter what happens, there's going to be a reckoning about what just occurred unless we stop this bill.

WALSH: But McCarthy says he believes his job is secure.

MARTÍNEZ: So if McCarthy is right and the deal passes tonight, the Senate still has to take it up. When would that happen?

WALSH: It needs to happen quickly. Some senators are pushing for amendments. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he's going to keep the Senate in this weekend to vote on it. The Treasury secretary says the U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as Monday, June 5. So they need to act by then.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Talk again soon.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Deirdre Walsh
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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