Friday, 24 May 2024

House Republicans won't commit to McCarthy's debt ceiling plan

Photo: Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) faces a steep challenge in cobbling together the 218 votes he needs to pass a proposed debt ceiling increase by his new self-imposed deadline.

Why it matters: Top Republicans say they want the bill on the floor by next week, but members across the GOP conference have a range of reservations about a proposal that's still incomplete.

  • Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said it's "probably not" enough time to get her on board: "To turn it around in a week, that's pretty short order."
  • "This is the single biggest point of leverage that will exist in these two years," said another Republican lawmaker.

Driving the news: GOP leadership unveiled their proposal to raise the debt ceiling into 2024 while slashing spending – but a half dozen House Republicans, more than enough to sink the bill, said they are still not sold.

  • Coming out of the closed-door GOP conference meeting where the proposal was laid out, Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told reporters, "I think we’ll be moving stuff probably next week."

What they're saying: “I think that they should go further … I am in favor of very aggressive cuts," said right-wing Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.).

  • Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a former chair of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, said McCarthy's proposal to keep non-discretionary, non-defense at 2022 levels is a "long ways away" from his demand to bring it down to pre-pandemic levels.
  • "I’m not at the table. And I get it, McCarthy’s pissed that I ran against him, so I don’t get invited to any of these deals," said Biggs, "But I think it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t want to hear from everybody.”
  • Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), a Biden-district moderate who has raised concerns about proposed welfare work requirements, told Axios, "I think we're making progress, but we're still taking a look at it."

Between the lines: Others are simply uncomfortable with the whole enterprise. "I just didn't run for Congress to raise the debt ceiling, so … it’s not something I’m excited about," said Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.).

  • "I really want to see some real restraints and fiscal cuts, not just promises," he said.
  • Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) has raised similar hesitations about raising the debt limit on principle.

The state of play: That puts McCarthy far from where he needs to be in terms of floor vote math – but even his detractors say it's possible they could come together.

  • "We're not there yet as far as I'm concerned, but I'm firmly in support of the idea we have to get a package passed and do it soon," said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.). "So I think the next week or so is extremely important."
  • "There are still some negotiations that are going to happen within the conference to put a little more meat around it," said Mace, "I'm waiting for more information. Right now I'm not there yet."
  • “I’m open to listening to what they have to say," said Biggs.

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