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House passes debt ceiling compromise bill that some Republicans see as path to more deficit cuts

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget called the Fiscal Responsibility Act the 'largest deficit reduction bill in over a decade'

May 31, 2023 11:18pm

Updated: May 31, 2023 11:18pm

The GOP-led House on Wednesday evening passed a debt limit compromise bill with President Biden that some Republicans see as a step toward their larger commitment to reduce the national debt and make government more fiscally responsible.

"We have to take small victories and move the ball in the right direction," said Georgia Republican Rep. Austin Scott in response to GOP critics who say the bill doesn't reduce domestic spending enough.

The bill passed the GOP-led House 314-117 and it now heads to the Democratic-led Senate just days before the June 5 deadline announced by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for Congress to raise the debt ceiling or risk running out of money.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which congressional leaders and the White House negotiated, would decrease federal debt by $1.5 trillion over a 10-year period. The deficit for fiscal 2023 is projected to be $1.5 trillion. The national debt is approaching $32 trillion.

"Think about how much further we could go," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the chief negotiator in Congress on the bill, said after its passage. "It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish. Each week we have stood up for the American public…Tonight, I hope we proved it to you again that we put the citizens of America first."

The idea of a more fiscally responsible government is a guiding principle in the Commitment to America agenda McCarthy set forth late last year ahead of the November election.

More House Democrats, 165, backed the bill than Republicans, 149. In total, 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats broke ranks to oppose the measure.

"The Fiscal Responsibility Act is the largest deficit reduction bill in over a decade, and we applaud members of both parties for passing it through the House," Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said in a statement. 

"After years of making deficits worse, it is refreshing to see bipartisan action toward making them better. The bill represents fiscally responsible policymaking, bipartisanship, and compromise – all things that are necessary to ultimately tackle our out-of-control debt." 

Scott also called the legislation a "small step in the right direction."

"We as Republicans have to be willing to take small victories if we're going to govern," he said. "The Democrats have done that for years and moved the ball in the wrong direction. We have to take small victories and move the ball in the right direction."

He said the Republicans can move to "reduce spending" in the future through the appropriations process.

A group of Republicans from the House Freedom Caucus opposed the bill, in part, because it increases the debt limit by $4 trillion. The original House-passed bill had raised the debt ceiling only by $1.5 trillion.

"Once we get past this week, we've got a budget that's sitting there ready to go," said Georgia Republican Rep. Mike Collins, who voted against the bill. "We've got our appropriation bills already in progress."

Arizona GOP Rep. Eli Crane, another opponent of the bill, said if the legislation contained historic spending cuts, then it would not receive so many votes from Democrats.

"If this is so historic, why are 100 Democrats going to be voting for it?" he asked. "That should tell the American people right there what this bill is all about."

Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of Job Creators Network, applauded the bill's passage as a "great victory for ordinary Americans and small businesses."

"The bill's many conservative provisions will rein in the reckless spending driving Bidenflation, unleash American energy, reduce executive overreach, and establish work requirements for welfare," he said. "We encourage the Senate to pass this legislation quickly in a bipartisan fashion, so President Biden can sign it into law."

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