Takeaways on debt ceiling: McCarthy's balancing act, Biden's choice and the challenges ahead
WASHINGTON (AP) — The reviews are starting to come in as details emerge about the debt ceiling agreement reached by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Even before seeing those details, some lawmakers were criticizing the deal as not doing enough to tackle the nation's debt, while others worried it's too austere and will harm many low-income Americans.
The legislation will probably need support from a significant number of lawmakers from both parties to clear the closely divided House and gain the 60 votes necessary to advance in the Senate.
Many lawmakers said they were withholding judgment until they see the final details, many which did not come out until Sunday evening. That's when the 99-page bill that resulted from the Biden-McCarthy negotiations was made public.
A look at how the agreement is going over so far:
Some of the earliest objections are coming from the most conservative members of Congress, particularly members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus that often clashes with GOP leadership.
“I think it's a disaster!” tweeted Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
“Fake conservatives agree to fake spending cuts,” tweeted Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
"This ‘deal’ is insanity," tweeted Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C. “A $4T debt ceiling increase with virtually no cuts is not what we agreed to. Not gonna vote to bankrupt our country. The American people deserve better.”
GOP leaders knew all along that they would lose some members' support in any compromise with a Democratic-led White House and Senate. The question has always been whether the deal would pick up enough Democratic support to offset those defections.
DEMOCRATS WEIGH IN
As much as some Democrats dislike what is roughly a spending freeze on non-defense programs next year and chafe at work requirements being extended to more food stamp recipients, initial reaction has been circumspect as they await more details.
Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., and chair of a center-left group known as the New Dems, which has roughly 100 members, said the group is “confident” that White House negotiators delivered a "viable, bipartisan solution to end this crisis."
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said he believed it was the best deal that could be reached given the demands coming from House Republicans.
“To my colleagues who have serious misgivings about this deal, I say this is far better than defaulting,” Coons said.
The likeliest opposition will come from the more liberal members of the caucus. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., has been voicing opposition to additional work requirements for some of those getting food and cash assistance. She called it terrible policy Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
But she said she is also waiting for legislative text to determine the level of exemptions to the work requirements that Biden was able to win for veterans, homeless people and people coming out of foster care.
“And so what do the numbers look like at the end of the day, I’m not sure," said Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “However, it is bad policy. I told the president that directly, when he called me last week on Wednesday, that this is saying to poor people and people who are in need that we don’t trust them.”
Asked if the Democrats at the White House and in the congressional leadership have to worry about whether the progressive caucus will support the bill, Jayapal said: “Yes, they have to worry."
A provision that expedites the approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia, also adds to the consternation many Democrats will have about the bill. They had succeeded in keeping it out of prior bills, but Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and other members of the West Virginia delegation prevailed in getting it included in the debt limit bill. Environmental groups were harshly criticizing its inclusion Sunday evening.
BUSINESS GROUP BACKING
With the nation roughly a week away from the risk of a default that could roil the global economy, major business groups have been urging Washington to act quickly on a debt-ceiling increase.
The Business Roundtable, a group of more than 200 chief executive officers, called on Congress to pass the bill as soon as possible.
“In addition to raising the debt ceiling, this agreement takes steps toward putting the U.S. on a more sustainable fiscal trajectory," said the group’s CEO, Joshua Bolten. “This deal also makes a down payment on permitting reform, helping to clear the path for new energy infrastructure projects.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also urged a yes vote and noted that the vote will be included when the group rates or “scorecards” members of Congress based on how they vote on business priorities.
Economists have been clear that the economy would be roiled with even a short-term breach in the nation's ability to fully pay its bills as interest rates would rise and financial markets swoon.
“The gravity of this moment cannot be overstated,” said Suzanne Clark, the business group’s president and CEO.
WATCHDOG GROUPS APPROVE
Some advocacy groups have long warned of the propensity of Congress to enact policy priorities without fully paying for them. Their concerns generally go unheeded. But some see the agreement as a step in the right direction.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted that if the legislation passes, it would be the first major deficit-reducing budget agreement in almost a dozen years.
"The process was tense, risky and ugly, but in the end, we have a plan to enact savings and lift the debt ceiling, and that is what is needed," said Maya MacGuineas, the group's president.