Apr 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts coalesce around McCarthy's debt ceiling bill

Kevin McCarthy talking

Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Most House Republicans haven’t even begun to dig into the GOP leadership's 230-page debt ceiling bill, but some key lawmakers are already signaling they are prepared to vote for it.

Why it matters: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hopes that showing he can get 218 votes for a debt ceiling increase and corresponding budget cuts finally could bring the White House to the negotiating table.

  • "I think it forces [Democrats] to come to the table because that shows you don't have the votes to move anything else," one House Republican told Axios.
  • But President Biden insisted he won't negotiate spending cuts over the debt ceiling: "Take default off the table and let's have a real serious conversation," he said in a Wednesday speech.

What we're hearing: "With what my understanding is of what's in there ... frankly, we got in there what we asked for," Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, told Axios.

  • Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) – another Freedom Caucus member who said on Tuesday he is "not there yet" – said Wednesday it is a "very meaningful and robust plan" and he's "very impressed with where we ended up."
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a leading centrist, told reporters: "Most of us that I talked to that were in the Biden districts were supportive of it."

What caught our eye: Bishop, among the 20 House Republicans who voted against McCarthy for speaker on multiple ballots, offered praise for his erstwhile adversary on Wednesday.

  • "[Democrats] certainly have been floating the notion that they didn't think we can get to 218," he said, "And I think they underestimate ... how very well the speaker has undertaken the leadership role he has entered."

The state of play: Democratic campaign operatives are attacking vulnerable Republicans over the spending cuts in the bill — but Biden-district members insist they're not worried about selling it back home.

  • Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), whose district went for President Biden by 12 percentage points in 2020, told Axios he is "confident" about how the bill will play with his constituents.
  • "This notion that we're killing the federal government — we're getting back to responsible spending that's pro-growth, pro-taxpayer," he said.
  • Bacon argued that the bill's work requirements and repeal of Inflation Reduction Act tax credits are "frankly, very popular" with voters.

What we're watching: Conservatives are signaling that they won't dilute the spending cuts, meaning McCarthy may have to turn to Democrats to pass any deal struck with the White House.

  • "This is the deal. This isn't the negotiating [position]," Good said of the GOP bill, "And we need to be willing to walk away if the Senate and the president don't accept it ... it requires all of this to get to 218."
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