McCarthy Moves in for the Kill on Debt Ceiling

UNITED STATES - MAY 24: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks with reporters about the debt ceiling negotiations in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is aiming to strike a deal soon with the White House on raising the debt ceiling, he indicated to reporters Wednesday afternoon.

McCarthy said staff planned to meet at the White House “to try to finish up the negotiations” between House Republicans and President Joe Biden that day and made clear that spending cuts remain a condition of any debt ceiling hike.

The speaker also caveated that “there’s a number of places that we are still far apart.”

House Republicans passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act in April, which would raise the debt ceiling through early next year while drastically reducing spending. The bill’s provisions include blocking Biden’s student loan bailout, rescinding recent funding to the IRS, repealing climate-related parts of the Inflation Reduction Act, and expanding work requirements for welfare recipients.

The cuts are meant to help rein in government spending that, according to Republicans, has driven growth of the national debt, which stands at $31 trillion.

Since the bill’s passage, Biden has faced mounting pressure to offer a viable alternative to McCarthy before June 1, the earliest date a potentially catastrophic debt default could occur, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Any alternative would need to be able to pass both the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate.

The president and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had for months demanded a clean debt ceiling increase, that is, a ceiling hike with no conditions.

This, McCarthy reiterated Wednesday, remains a non-option for House Republicans, which has forced Biden to come to the negotiating table and make at least some of the House GOP’s desired concessions.

House Freedom Caucus members and others in the hard right flank of the party have indicated they do not want to settle for a watered-down version of their already-passed bill, suggesting the speaker will need House Democrats to fall in line behind Biden if and when an agreement is reached in order to secure a majority vote.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a leading voice for the Freedom Caucus members, laid out Wednesday morning in a memo to colleagues obtained by Breitbart News that he wants to see McCarthy “hold the line” on certain terms of the Limit, Save, Grow Act.

Asked about wrangling a majority of votes among the various party factions in the lower chamber while the prospect of a default looms, McCarthy reminded reporters that he had successfully led passage of one debt bill already.

“You underestimated me the whole time. The one thing you should learn from me, I will never give up for the American people. … Can we get to ‘yes?’ Yes. We passed a bill,” he said.

The White House, after dramatically changing its tune this month from an unwillingness to negotiate to near-daily talks with the speaker on finding a workable solution, also said Wednesday a deal was possible.

“We believe there is still an opportunity here to get a bipartisan agreement,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

McCarthy, likewise, said, “I firmly believe that we’ll be able to get there.”

Write to Ashley Oliver at Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.


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