Debt ceiling deal’s next steps — getting it through Congress

Now that President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have reached an agreement to suspend the debt ceiling and prevent the nation from defaulting on its debts, the White House and congressional leaders must convince enough lawmakers in the narrowly divided House and Senate to pass the legislation.

The agreement includes spending cuts demanded by Republicans, but it is short of the reductions in the sweeping legislation passed by the GOP-majority House last month. In exchange for raising the debt limit for two years — beyond the next presidential election — a two-year budget deal would hold spending flat for 2024 and impose limits for 2025. 

It also expands some work requirements for food-stamp recipients and edits an environmental law to try to streamline reviews to build new energy projects.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen projected last week that the nation could default on its debt obligations by June 5 if lawmakers do not act in time to raise the federal debt ceiling.

Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House Sunday afternoon that he planned to call McCarthy “to make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted.” The House then released the 99-page legislative text Sunday evening.

Here’s what’s next in the rush to pass an agreement through Congress:

Selling the deal

Both Republicans and Democrats are expected to lose some votes, and leaders on both sides have been telling the rank and file that neither side won everything it wanted, as they strive to ensure that the deal has the support to pass both chambers. The president has urged both the House and Senate “to pass the agreement right away.”

Under House rules, lawmakers must have 72 hours to read the bill, and since they received it on Sunday, Wednesday is the earliest day the House can vote. 

McCarthy said he expects a majority of Republicans to support it and many Democrats, too, because Mr. Biden backs the bill. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he expects “there will be Democratic support once we have the ability to be fully briefed by the White House, but I’m not going to predict what those numbers will ultimately look like.” 

The reaction has been mixed, so far. Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina tweeted a vomit emoji, complaining that some Republicans on the call were praising the speaker for getting what he said is “almost zippo in exchange” for the debt ceiling hike.

Rep. Matt Rosendale, Republican of Montana, says he’ll vote no. He said in a statement Sunday, “It is frankly an insult to the American people to support a piece of legislation that continues to put our country’s financial future at risk.”

South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson, an ally of McCarthy, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “overwhelmingly, Republicans in this conference are going to support the deal. How could they not? It’s a fantastic deal.”

Not all Democrats appear to be on board with the agreement, either. Rep. Jim Himes, of Connecticut, said on “Fox News Sunday” that “there is absolutely nothing for the Democrats” in the bill and he’s “tempted to say” he’s voting no.

It appears that the bill will require strong bipartisan support to pass. Jeffries said on “Face the Nation” that he expected Republicans to produce “at least 150 votes, if not more,” meaning that at least 68 Democrats would also have to back it.

Both the House and Senate are expected to return to the Capitol Tuesday, after Memorial Day. 

House Rules for the vote

Before the House can consider the bill, the House Rules Committee will hold a hearing at 3 p.m. Tuesday, which will determine the rules and length of time for debating the bill and any amendments that would be allowed.

This committee has a 9-4 Republican majority, including some McCarthy allies. But two House Freedom Caucus members who’ve blasted the deal also sit on the panel,  Rep. Chip Roy, of Texas, and Rep. Ralph Norman, of South Carolina.

McCarthy said the House would vote Wednesday, which would then send the bill to the Senate.

The Senate

Once the bill reaches the Senate, where Democrats have the majority, the pace of action will largely depend on whether any senators try to hold up the bill, possibly with amendment votes. That could tie up the legislation for a few days.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York warned members Sunday that “due to the time it may take to process the legislation in the Senate without cooperation, Senators should prepare for potential Friday and weekend votes.”

Still, the Senate can move quickly when it has agreement from all 100 senators. The bill could be passed by the end of the week and then sent to Mr. Biden, who would sign it into law.

Scott MacFarlane and Zak Hudak contributed to this report.

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