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Biden under pressure as McCarthy, McConnell align on spending reforms tied to debt limit increase

McCarthy was critical of the way the Senate GOP handled the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that passed in December before the new GOP-led House convened.

Published: May 10, 2023 12:16am

President Biden is under pressure to negotiate with congressional Republicans over the debt limit as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell align on spending reforms in exchange for a debt limit increase.

The White House initially said Biden was not going to negotiate with the GOP on the debt limit. Biden was pushing for a clean increase to the debt limit without strings attached.

Since taking the speaker's gavel, McCarthy has been advocating for spending reductions to be connected to a debt limit increase. The House GOP passed a bill in late April that included reforms to domestic spending tied to a $1.5 trillion increase to the debt limit.

A large group of Senate Republicans held a press conference late last week to show support for the House GOP bill.

"We have divided government," Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) said during the news conference with other GOP senators. "This is about compromise. This is the democratic process. The president needs to step up. I know he didn't fail civics 101. He knows how this process is supposed to work."

McConnell signed onto a letter with 40 other Senate Republicans, which stated that the Senate Republican conference is "united behind the House Republican conference in support of spending cuts and structural budget reform as a starting point for negotiations on the debt ceiling.

"As such, we will not be voting for cloture on any bill that raises the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budget reforms," the letter concludes.

McCarthy was critical of the way the Senate GOP handled the 4,155-page $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that passed in December under the Democrat-led Congress just before the new GOP-led House convened.

The House Freedom Caucus and other conservative Republicans were also vocal in their criticism of how the omnibus legislation was handled, given that it raised domestic spending by about 9% amid record inflation. Annual defense spending also increased at the same time.

Fast forward to the battle over the debt limit, and the House and Senate GOP appear to be on the same page after their divergence during December's omnibus fight.

"The House Republicans passed a plan, a large portion of Senate Republicans are on board with this plan," said Dan Savickas, director of policy at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. "There's nothing going on under the table here with this plan. There's no reason why this can't move forward. This is not a surprise. This is not a last-second push."

McCarthy and McConnell met with Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries at the White House on Tuesday. 

"I didn't see any new movement," McCarthy said following the meeting, adding that an agreement hasn't been reached on the debt limit.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that congressional leaders and Biden must come to agreement since there is now divided government and "elections have consequences." He said there are not 60 votes in the Senate for a clean debt ceiling without anything else included in the bill.

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