House GOP revises debt ceiling bill in effort to boost support before vote
▶ Watch Video: Speaker McCarthy moves to secure support for debt limit, federal spending plan
Washington — House Republicans made changes overnight to their legislation raising the debt ceiling and slashing roughly $4.5 trillion in government spending, as GOP leaders sought to bring on board a group of holdouts ahead of a vote that could come as soon as Wednesday.
The tweaks to Republicans’ bill, which would lift the debt ceiling for the rest of the year and into 2024, leave intact ethanol tax credits that would’ve been repealed through the original proposal and move up implementation of more stringent work requirements for recipients of food stamps and Medicaid by one year, from 2025 to 2024.
The revisions to the measure, known as the “Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023,” were revealed in the early-morning hours and sought to address concerns from a group of Midwestern Republicans, specifically members of the Iowa delegation, who pushed back on the initial bill’s unwinding of the tax incentives for biodiesel and other alternative fuels. Changes to the effective-date for the stricter work requirements came after GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said an “essential element” to winning his vote would be to enact the new rules for social safety-net programs sooner.
It’s unclear whether the changes will assuage enough Republicans to garner the support needed to clear the House, where the GOP maintains a slim majority. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy can only afford up to four defections in order for the bill to pass.
Rep. Mark Alford, a Missouri Republican, indicated he would back the updated bill, telling reporters that McCarthy “came back with a proposal that we were willing to accept and move forth with.”
“We’ve got to get this over the finish line. We’ve got to get this over to the Senate,” he said.
GOP Rep. Derrick Orden of West Virginia said he, too, plans to vote for the revised legislation after he was “swayed publicly” Tuesday night by McCarthy and the broader Republican conference.
“It is our responsibility to get the speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy to the table with President Biden,” he told reporters. “The speaker of the House has a burden to bring the president of the United States to a place where he will make sure that he is protecting our progenitors and our progeny.”
But Rep. Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican who repeatedly said he intends to vote against the bill, indicated his position is unchanged.
Rep. Nancy Mace, of South Carolina, plans to vote no because the bill doesn’t balance the budget.
“If you look at this plan and what it does with the debt over the next 10 years, it does not reduce the debt over the next 10 years, which is why I wrote about balancing the budget and how important that is,” she told reporters.
Rep. Andy Biggs, of Arizona, may still be opposed, tweeting Tuesday morning that spending should return to 2019 spending levels.
Republicans’ debt-ceiling bill, unveiled by McCarthy last week, is meant to jumpstart stalled talks with President Biden over the debt limit. But the measure is effectively dead-on-arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where 60 votes are needed for legislation to advance. The White House said Tuesday that Mr. Biden will veto the bill if it arrives on his desk, and the president has repeatedly said he will only accept a measure that lifts the debt ceiling with no conditions.
The House GOP’s plan lifts the debt ceiling through March 2024 or by $1.5 trillion, whichever is first. It also freezes spending at levels adopted in fiscal year 2022 and caps future federal spending increase at 1% annually for the next decade.
Republicans’ legislation claws back unspent federal COVID-19 relief funds, revokes some of the $80 billion for the Internal Revenue Service included in the Inflation Reduction Act and tightens the work requirements for Medicaid and food stamp recipients.
The bill also rolls back some of the president’s signature policies, including his plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt — two challenges to the debt relief program are pending before the Supreme Court —and climate provisions enacted through the Inflation Reduction Act, Democrats’ signature health care, tax and climate package.
Congress and the White House are staring down a fast-approaching deadline to suspend or lift the debt ceiling after the U.S. hit its borrowing limit of nearly $31.4 trillion in mid-January, forcing the Treasury to use “extraordinary measures” to avoid defaulting on its debt.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated those extraordinary measures could be exhausted as early as July, though the deadline could be reached as early as June depending on the money collected by the IRS as Americans file their taxes.
A default by the U.S. on its debt would be historic and could have catastrophic consequences for the economy.
Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.