Apr 25, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration targets rural Republicans on debt ceiling bill

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, wearing a dark gray suit, white shirt and red tie, holds a microphone and speaks at an event.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Biden administration is taking aim at rural and Midwestern Republicans in its efforts to kill House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) bill to raise debt ceiling and cut spending.

Why it matters: At least eight House Republicans plan to vote against the measure unless cuts to ethanol tax credits are removed, Axios' Juliegrace Brufke reported.

What they're saying: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a statement obtained by Axios, said the bill's repeal of tax credits for renewable biofuels "jeopardizes an important income stream for the farmers they source from."

  • "It is hard to see the logic in this wrong-headed proposal that would walk back significant progress in clean energy, rural economic recovery, and job creation," he said.

Between the lines: McCarthy is straining to pull detractors in his conference together to pass the measure through the narrowly divided House.

  • The Senate and the White House have already threatened to block it, but McCarthy hopes that by being able to unify his members around a set of spending cuts he can force President Biden to the negotiating table.

What we're hearing: Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who told Axios he was recruited by GOP leadership over the weekend to whip fellow Midwesterners to support the bill, told Axios on Monday they "want to talk ... [they] want to get to yes."

  • Bacon said his case to his rural colleagues was: "This is the opening salvo and the final bill is probably going to look somewhat different."

What's next: McCarthy is expected to meet with the "Corn Bloc," which includes all four members from Iowa, later on Tuesday afternoon – but leadership has balked at the idea of opening up the bill for changes.

  • Instead they have tried to argue that, by voting against the Inflation Reduction Act, the Midwestern members voted against those tax credits once already.
  • McCarthy's office didn't respond to an Axios request for comment.
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