Speaker McCarthy unveils $1.5 trillion debt bill, which has almost no chance of becoming law

The Republican leader is using the legislation as a strategic move, a starting point to draw President Biden into negotiations that the White House has, so far, been unwilling to have over the debt crisis

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaks at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, on April 17, 2023.BRENDAN MCDERMID (REUTERS)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unveiled a sweeping package Wednesday that would raise the nation’s debt limit by $1.5 trillion into next year while imposing a long list of Republican priorities, including new spending caps, work requirements for recipients of government aid and others that are sure to be nonstarters for the White House.

McCarthy announced that House Republicans were introducing their legislation just as President Joe Biden was taking the stage at a union hall in Maryland to warn of a looming fiscal crisis if Congress fails to take action to raise the debt ceiling to keep paying the nation’s bills.

The 320-page “Limit, Save, Grow Act” unleashed by House Republicans has almost no chance of becoming law, but McCarthy is using the legislation as a strategic move, a starting point to draw Biden into negotiations that the White House has, so far, been unwilling to have over the debt crisis.

“President Biden is skipping town to deliver a speech in Maryland rather than sitting down to address the debt ceiling,” McCarthy said in a speech on the House floor.

The package was swiftly embraced by leading Republicans as McCarthy has worked intently to unite his often fractious majority. A vote in the House is expected in a matter of days, in hopes of pressuring Biden to respond.

Among the bill’s highlights is that it would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion into next year, putting the issue squarely into the middle of the next presidential election. It would also roll back spending to 2022 levels, and impose a 1% cap on future federal spending for the next decade, with likely exceptions for some defense accounts. It claws back unspent Covid-19 funds. Republicans want to rescind some of Biden’s top policy achievements, including his executive action that provided student loan payment relief for millions of college students, a Democratic Party priority.

The House GOP measure would also roll back elements of Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act — particularly the provisions that the White House and Democrats put in place to fight climate change — and halt money to the Internal Revenue Service that was designed to conduct audits of potential tax cheats.

Loading the bill up are other Republican priorities, including their marquee H.R. 1, a sweeping energy bill that aims to boost oil, gas and coal production while overhauling permitting regulations to ease such developments.

The package includes a long-sought Republican effort to impose tougher work requirements on recipients of government aid, including people dependent on food stamps, Medicaid for health care and general cash assistance.

Overall, the legislation is a designed to be a marker for Republicans, a bill that could unite what McCarthy’s team has called the “five families” — the often warring factions of conservatives and hard-right Republicans in the House GOP majority.

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