House Republicans from across the conference are signaling support for the debt bill ahead of this week’s expected vote on it, indicating House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) could see well over a majority of the GOP vote in favor of it.
In a members-only House Freedom Caucus call last night, which featured some of McCarthy’s toughest critics, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) spoke favorably about the bill, called the “Fiscal Responsibility Act.”
“For the first time ever we’re actually spending less money. It’s never happened,” Jordan said.
The bill increases the nation’s $31 trillion debt limit through January 2025, staving off what could be a catastrophic default as early as June 5. The bill includes caps on discretionary spending for the next two years, along with several other concessions like taking back unused money allocated toward covid and expanding work requirements on some welfare recipients.
Davidson, while acknowledging that there were “lots of things not to like in the bill,” said some of it was “unprecedented” and lauded the GOP’s ability to achieve “fiscal responsibility” in the face of a Democrat-controlled Senate and White House. Democrats had opposed giving any concessions at all in exchange for a debt ceiling hike.
Jordan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, added that the continuing resolution provision in it that was proposed by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) would give Republicans more control over limiting funding for the Justice Department, a top target for the chairman.
“[The Massie provision] gives us a chance to win on something,” Jordan said. “That is different and the simple fact that for the first time in nine debt ceilings … it’s the first time we’ve actually cut spending.”
He said he and Massie would meet with McCarthy on Tuesday to make sure they understood the provision, which is designed to push Republicans toward passing 12 appropriations bills rather than one omnibus bill to fund the government.
The House vote on the legislation is expected as early as Wednesday, and McCarthy will almost certainly need some Democrats to back the bill for it to pass. A 99-member moderate Democrat group has indicated it plans to support it.
Most of the others on the Freedom Caucus call were more critical of or outright opposed to the bill, saying it paled in comparison to the Republican-favored Limit, Save, Grow Act they passed in April, though that bill would not survive in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said the caucus would vote on an official position to take on the bill. If 80 percent of the caucus rejected it, then all caucus members would typically have to vote against it, which would rule out support from about three dozen members of the total conference.
Perry was also pressed by Reps. Ken Buck (R-CO) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), two of the most unbudging opponents of the bill, on what Buck called the “elephant in the room,” that is, using the motion to vacate the chair procedure established during the speaker race to threaten to oust McCarthy over the bill.
“We’re not there yet,” Perry said, noting his priority was taking an official caucus position on the bill.
Earlier on Monday, GOP Conference chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) led a call with reporters during which a wide cross section of the conference praised the bill, including another member from the House Freedom Caucus and members from the Republican Study Committee, Main Street GOP, Problem Solvers Caucus, and key negotiators of the bill.
Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), the Homeland Security chairman and a Freedom Caucus member, applauded McCarthy for forcing concessions out of President Joe Biden.
“We’re kicking way beyond our weight,” Green said. “We barely control half of a third of the government, and here we get the Democrats and Biden to negotiate — took him long enough, of course — but got him off a clean debt ceiling and actually they’re cutting spending year over year. It’s amazing.”
Others speaking out in favor of the bill included Main Street Caucus vice chairwoman Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Ways and Means chairman Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), Congressional Hispanic Conference member Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Administration chairman Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI), and several others.
“This is a wide array of our conference,” Stefanik observed. “You have freshmen members who were just elected. You have senior members who are chairmen … strong support conference-wide.”