Apr 26, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House leaders try to solve math problems on debt ceiling vote

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo:

Congressional leaders are scrambling to ensure their caucuses are at full force when the House votes Wednesday on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) debt ceiling bill.

Why it matters: Republicans have control of the House by a slim margin and multiple Republicans are signaling plans to defect.

  • The House is expected to vote as early as Wednesday afternoon on the measure, which would raise the debt ceiling into 2024 while slashing government spending.
  • Democrats are trying to maximize McCarthy's headaches as he wrangles his members.

By the numbers: Republicans have a nine-seat majority, meaning they can normally lose just four votes on a given party-line bill assuming all Democrats oppose it.

  • But the margin McCarthy needs could shift if several lawmakers are absent.
  • During votes on Tuesday, nine House Democrats and six Republicans were absent.

What we're hearing: Democratic leadership is cracking down on non-voters on their side and it expects multiple members who were absent to be in D.C. and voting on Wednesday, according to Democratic aides.

  • One Democratic aide described the message to the party's members as: “McCarthy had a terrible day yesterday. The only way to force him to have another terrible day is to be here and voting.”
  • At least three Democrats who were absent Tuesday — Reps. Deborah Ross (N.C.), Jason Crow (Colo.) and Eric Swalwell (Calif.) — are expected to vote Wednesday, according to their offices.

Between the lines: It's not clear whether any Democrats will vote for the measure, though it is expected to be opposed by the vast majority of the caucus.

  • The legislation includes new welfare work requirements, repealing portions of the Inflation Reduction Act and rescinding student loan debt forgiveness in addition to broader, across-the-board spending cuts.

Yes, but: Several Republicans who were absent, including Reps. Roger Williams (Texas) and Greg Murphy (N.C.), attended the GOP conference meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday morning.

What we're watching: It could all come down to a few Republicans who, as of early Wednesday, said they opposed the legislation.

  • Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) and several other Republicans emerged from the GOP conference meeting saying they still planned to vote "no" on the bill.

Juliegrace Brufke contributed reporting for this story.

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