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Senate approval of McCarthy-Biden debt deal averts US default but intensifies GOP rift

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Published: June 2, 2023 5:47am

Updated: June 2, 2023 6:55am

The Senate on Thursday passed a compromise deal to suspend the federal debt ceiling for two years after holding numerous votes on proposed amendments.

The upper chamber took up the comprise deal between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy one day after the GOP-led lower chamber passed it with votes from Democrats and Republicans. The final Senate vote was 63-36 in favor of passage.

Senate members unanimously agreed to conduct 11 amendment votes, none of which secured the necessary support to become part of the final bill. Though lawmakers agreed to set the time limit to 10 minutes per vote, they generally ran long.

The House on Wednesday passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act, with lawmakers voting 314-117 in favor of the plan.

Notably, more Democrats, 165, endorsed the legislation than did Republicans, 149.

McCarthy saw 71 members of his own conference oppose his bill while only 46 Democrats did so.

The deal also reignited a major feud between McCarthy and the Freedom Caucus, a coalition of more than three dozen of the most conservative Republicans in the House.

Those tensions had subsided after McCarthy‘s election as Speaker for several months as the House approved numerous conservative measures from China to spending, but the deal’s elimination of a debt limit for nearly two years ended the goodwill.

.The chairman of that caucus, Rep, Scott Perry, told Just the News that his entire caucus was unhappy with the deal and believed it betrayed the election promises Republicans made last year to institute sweeping spending cuts. 

“Republicans were elected in the House of Representatives to stop the Biden agenda, not underwrite it with the funding from American tax dollars. And that's exactly what we're doing,” Perry told the “Just the News, No Noise” television show.

Negotiated between McCarthy and Biden, the plan represents the product of months of discussions between the pair and key congressional negotiators over the conditions by which the nation would raise the debt ceiling.

Democrats had sought a clean increase to the limit while Republicans wanted to pair any such increase with spending cuts and budgetary provisions to address the mounting national debt.

McCarthy faced intense pressure from the conservative wing of his conference to secure concessions from the Democrats on the matter. The California Republican claimed the speaker's gavel only after making concessions to the Freedom Caucus, which included appointing some of its members to key committees, making changes to chamber rules, and promising to fight for budgetary concessions.

The final version of the plan includes a two-year suspension of the debt ceiling that will continue through the next presidential election. Republicans managed to secure a budget cut in fiscal year 2024 and a cap on non-defense discretionary spending growth at 1% for the following year. The plan also enacts certain work requirements for federal benefits programs and grants key permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Biden and McCarthy announced that they had reached the agreement in late May. The prospect of a debt default, however, has lingered since January, when the U.S. hit its $31.4 trillion debt limit, forcing the Treasury to implement "extraordinary measures" to pay the government's bills. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pleaded with Congress for months to approve an increase to the debt limit, warning repeatedly that they must do so by June 1 to avert a default on the nation's debt. Last week, however, she revised the deadline to June 5.

"Based on the most recent available data, we now estimate that Treasury will have insufficient resources to satisfy the government's obligations if Congress has not raised or suspended the debt limit by June 5," she wrote in a letter to Congress.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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