House of Representatives approves Biden and McCarthy’s debt ceiling deal

The most radical Republican and Democratic Congress members voted against the agreement, but did not succeed in stopping it

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, center, Wednesday on Capitol Hill
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, center, Wednesday on Capitol Hill.J. Scott Applewhite (AP)
Miguel Jiménez

The United States is one step closer to avoiding an economic catastrophe. The U.S. House of Representatives agreed Wednesday night to suspend the debt ceiling until 2025 in exchange for budget cuts. The vote resulted in broad support for the law, the fruit of an agreement between President Joe Biden, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, despite the opposition of the hard-line wing of the Republican Party and some members of Congress from the Democratic Party.

The agreement between the two parties has made it possible to overcome the obstacles laid down by the most extreme members of both parties. The law has been approved by a large majority, with 314 votes in favor and 117 against. Although the Republicans have a majority in the Lower House, the bill received more support from the Democrats. Among the Republican representatives, there were 149 votes in favor and 71 against, in addition to two abstentions. Among the Democrats, there were 165 ayes and 46 nays, plus another two abstentions.

The major stumbling block was cleared on Tuesday in the parliamentary committee that allowed the urgent processing of the bill by 7 votes to 6. Then, it passed another procedural vote on Wednesday before the final one, in which the House of Representatives approved it.

Now, the legislation moves to the Senate for fast-track approval. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has estimated that the U.S. federal government will run out of money next week to meet its payment obligations if the debt ceiling is not raised or suspended first.

The pact has caused a fracture in the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. The hardliners, the same ones who initially blocked the nomination of Kevin McCarthy, feel betrayed. They put conditions on their leader on the debt ceiling to elect him and feel he has reneged on them. They wanted much more aggressive spending cuts.

McCarthy gave a speech of just over 14 minutes this afternoon on the House floor to defend the deal, although his words failed to convince dissenters. “Tonight we’re going to do something we haven’t done before. Tonight, we’re going to give America hope. Tonight we’re going to vote for the largest savings in American history: over $2.1 trillion,” he said, exaggerating somewhat, since on a like-for-like basis the 2011 cut was larger and part of that calculation depends on maintaining certain savings beyond the life of the law.

“To continue Washington spending addiction is both irresponsible and just wrong. So let’s stop. I’ll be honest, tonight’s bill doesn’t stop it,”, he recognized; before saying it was a turning point nonetheless: “We begin to turn the ship.”

McCarthy even displayed a picture of a baby -which he also shared on Twitter- to make his case: “This is Halle. She was born on April 11. Her dad gave her blue eyes. Her mom gave her a button nose. And politicians in Washington gave her a $95,000 bill — every American’s portion of the national debt. Runaway spending is more than an economic problem. It’s a moral problem,” McCarthy and his post said, overlooking the very sharp increase in the deficit and debt incurred during the Trump presidency.

The Republican leader has stressed that he has forced Biden to negotiate when he wanted an unconditional increase in the debt ceiling. And he has responded to critics. “Yeah, I could say I’m gonna vote no. Because there’s something not in the bill. If I took that philosophy, I would never vote yes,” he added.

Democrats have been less critical of the bill than dissident Republicans, although there were some loud announcements of a “no” vote, such as that of Senator Bernie Sanders. Nevertheless, the House of Representatives passed the bill with a majority, criticizing the Republicans for not raising the debt without conditions and for wanting harsher cuts.

“This moment of crisis was manufactured by extreme MAGA Republicans on the other side of the aisle,” Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries has said. “Thank the distinguished members of the Ways and Means Committee. I thank House Democrats, for your steady hand for your unity of purpose, for your efforts to make sure that we push back the extreme MAGA Republican efforts to jam right wing cuts down the throats of the American people that would have undermined the health, the safety and the economic well-being of everyday Americans,” he continued.

“From the very beginning, House Democrats are clear that we will not allow extreme MAGA Republicans to default on our debt, crash the economy or trigger a job killing recession,” Jeffries added.

President Joe Biden was optimistic Wednesday morning before leaving for Colorado. “I think things are going as planned, God willing, he said. “I’ll be landing in Colorado tonight in preparation for my commencement speech at the Air Force Academy tomorrow. And, God willing, by the time I land, the Congress will have acted, the House will have acted, and we’ll be one step closer,” he continued.

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