House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has passed a debt ceiling bill, ending weeks of debate and placing the ball squarely in Joe Biden’s court. Furthermore, McCarthy’s surprising outpouring of support from Republicans in the Senate, even moderates, indicates that the GOP is ready to fight back.
The bill passed 217-215 with absolutely no democratic support. In addition to raising the debt limit by $1.5 trillion, the bill would reduce federal agency funding to levels of 2022, limit government spending growth to 1% per year, and block various White House-backed measures, including canceling federal student debts and funding the IRS.
Before Tuesday’s vote, McCarthy told reporters they could not ignore the problem as the president did. McCarthy stated that Biden ignores the border, and now he is doing it with America’s fiscal policy.
The bill is McCarthy’s most significant victory since overcoming resistance to his Speakership earlier this year was the passage of the Limit, Save, Grow Act on Wednesday night in the House. While the White House and Democrats have stated that they would not accept anything less than a clean debt limit rise, McCarthy’s success here will compel the Biden administration to negotiate with Republicans, which is a significant victory in and of itself.
Furthermore, the fact that he has gained backing from Mitch McConnell (among others) is critical since it indicates that the White House will be unable to go around the House and force the issue.
McCarthy also obtained an excellent talking point. House Republicans are the only ones who have enacted legislation to raise the country’s borrowing limit. He will sit back, pat himself on the back, and complain about how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is not doing anything and how President Joe Biden is not compromising.
Following the vote, McCarthy said the president could no longer jeopardize the economy. He added that they did their job and lifted the debt ceiling. Currently, they are the only government branch that has passed anything regarding the debt ceiling.
On Wednesday night, McCarthy received phone calls from many Senate Republicans congratulating him on the bill’s passage. Evidently, there is no support in the Senate GOP Conference for a clean debt-limit bill, and the White House cannot avoid McCarthy by striking a deal with Senate Republicans.
The Senate Republican support is crucial, particularly backing from the caucus’s moderate flank. With prominent supporters like Todd Young, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and Mitch McConnell publicly calling for Biden to come to the table to talk with McCarthy, it’s apparent Biden will have no choice but to sit down.
And therein lays Biden’s difficulty. Because the Democrats had no strategy and were unwilling to negotiate, they called McCarthy’s bluff, and he reacted with a bill. The House now has the upper hand, which should irritate Democrats and make them nervous.
Biden will be compelled to negotiate, and he will come away with a compromise, which Democrats do not want. If Republicans can be bargained with, that implies they aren’t the fanatical radicals the Democrats portray them to be. And Democrats know that Biden’s eagerness to “do something” will push him to compromise. That is unacceptable to them because they do not want to become accustomed to attaching the debt ceiling to budget cuts. That would be devastating for their budgetary philosophy (to the extent that they are thought to have one).
McCarthy deserves credit for continuing to fight. Part of it is because he has to, but it’s also because he doesn’t want to make a terrible deal just to keep everyone happy. That might still happen, but Biden is in a difficult position for now.