In a significant development, the debt ceiling agreement between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has cleared a significant hurdle in the House. On Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee voted 7-6 in favor of approving the terms of debate for the legislation, paving the way for House lawmakers to vote on the agreement on Wednesday evening. The vote’s result was uncertain due to the opposition or potential opposition expressed by three Republican committee members toward the agreement.
The Rules Committee, where Republicans hold a 9-4 advantage, needed the support of every Democrat and at least three Republicans to proceed with the Biden-McCarthy deal on the House floor. However, in the final committee vote, only two Republicans, Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Chip Roy of Texas voted against it, along with all four Democrats. This allowed the agreement to pass, setting the stage for the House floor votes.
While bipartisan support is expected for the legislation, both parties used the hearing as an opportunity to shift blame onto each other for the rushed nature of raising the government’s borrowing limit just days before it was projected to run out of funds. Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to risk a default on the nation’s financial obligations by initially passing their debt limit bill, the Limit, Save, Grow Act. They also criticized the stricter work requirements negotiated by McCarthy’s team for those receiving federal assistance. Some Republicans praised the bill, endorsing McCarthy’s efforts to secure spending cuts, while others argued that it falls short in curbing spending.
During the hearing, Rep. Ralph Norman criticized the bill, calling it “smoke and mirrors” and suggesting that Democrats supported it because it aligned with their objectives. Chairman Jason Smith of the House Ways and Means Committee countered Norman’s claim, asserting that although the bill might not meet all of his preferences, it represents an improvement compared to the unrestricted debt limit advocated by the president.
Rep. Chip Roy deemed the projected $2 trillion in savings from the bill as fictional and cited an estimate suggesting it would add $4 trillion to the national debt. He argued that the Limit, Save, Grow Act offered a more responsible approach to reducing spending and changing the country’s trajectory.
Another member of the Rules Committee, Rep. Thomas Massie, announced his intention to vote in favor of advancing the bill to the House floor but did not disclose his stance on supporting it during the final vote.
The final agreement, reached over the weekend, suspends the debt limit without a cap until January 1, 2025. It also includes reductions in non-defense spending to levels close to fiscal year 2022, with a growth cap of 1% for the next two years, followed by non-mandatory caps for the subsequent four years. Additionally, it reclaims funds allocated to the Internal Revenue Service and unspent COVID-19 pandemic funds.
Despite the proposal of approximately 50 amendments by lawmakers from both parties to preserve the integrity of the deal brokered between House GOP leaders and the White House, the Rules Committee dismissed all proposed amendments.