Updated May 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden and McCarthy tout "historic" debt ceiling deal to divided Congress

President Joe Biden meets with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the Oval Office of the White House on May 22, 2023 in Washington, DC.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden in the Oval Office of the White House on May 22. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden said Sunday his debt ceiling deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "prevents the worst possible crisis: a default for the first time in our nation's history."

The big picture: The House GOP leadership said as McCarthy released the bill's text that Republicans had "secured a historic series of wins worthy of the American people." But both Biden and McCarthy still have to overcome skeptical Democrats and Republicans in a divided Congress to pass the bill ahead of the U.S. government's projected June 5 default.

A screenshot of a tweet by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, saying: "The Fiscal Responsibility Act does what is responsible for our kids, what is possible in divided government, & what is required by our principles. Republican resolve achieved this transformative change to how Washington works."
Photo: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy/Twitter
  • McCarthy's survival as speaker could be at stake if he can't persuade conservative Republicans who've already criticized the bill, know as the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Axios' Andrew Solender and Juliegrace Brufke note.
  • The bill would need at least 111 Republicans and 107 Democrats to hit the 218-vote threshold needed to pass in the House, per the Washington Post. However, McCarthy allies have said the vast majority of Republicans support the deal.

What they're saying:

Several Republicans, including multiple members of the House Freedom Caucus, have expressed opposition to the bill.

  • Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) tweeted after McCarthy released the bill's text: "Republicans are the only ones who can bring fiscal sanity to Congress. This 'deal' with the White House fails to uphold that responsibility."
  • Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Sunday evening retweeted Twitter posts by Russ Vought, who led former President Trump's Office of Management and Budget, criticizing the bill after the text was released.
  • Rep. Matt Rosendale (R.-Mont.) said in a statement Sunday night that he'd vote against the bill, adding that including "$4 trillion to the existing $31 trillion national debt" is "an insult to the American people to support a piece of legislation that continues to put our country’s financial future at risk."
  • Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) doubled down on his earlier condemnation of the deal when he retweeted criticism of the bill by Twitter's Elon Musk on Sunday night:
A  screenshot of a retweet of Elon Musk's tweet saying "Incompetence, in the limit, is indistinguishable from sabotage" by Rep. Dan Bishop with the comment: "Is he thinking what I think he's thinking? He'd be right."
Photo: Dan Bishop/Elon Musk/Twitter

Meanwhile, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told CNN's "State of the Union" she's "not happy with some of the things" she'd heard about the bill ahead of its release and Democratic leaders still "have to worry" about progressives supporting the legislation.

  • CPC whip Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas) said on MSNBC's "The Mehdi Hasan Show" Sunday evening ahead of the group meeting to discuss the bill that "nobody's vote should be taken for granted" and there are "a lot of really concerning parts of this bill."
  • House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday morning the House Democratic Caucus had yet to review the text so he wouldn't immediately comment on it, but he did say: "President Biden has delivered a result that avoids a catastrophic default."

Separately, there were doubts by some in the Senate, where WashPost notes at least nine Republicans would have to join all 51 Democrats to pass the legislation for Biden to sign into law.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted ahead of the bill's release that he understands compromise, "but I don’t understand putting our defense capabilities at serious risk in the name of compromise."
  • "The 2011 budget deal was a disaster for our nation’s defense. I have fears this proposal is shaping up to be even worse. Stay tuned," he added.
  • Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted Sunday morning that the bill was "a blank check" for Democrats.
  • Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) retweeted a tweet by Roy Sunday morning that denounced the deal with the comment: "The more I learn about this debt ceiling deal, the more I think it’s bad news."

Go deeper: Party leaders sell divergent realities on debt ceiling deal

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Rep. Dan Bishop and with further context.

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