The recent “agreement in principle” between House Republicans and the White House to raise the nation’s borrowing limit marks a significant milestone in the ongoing negotiations. However, the path to a resolution remains uncertain, as both parties strive to consolidate support for the emerging package. The negotiations have been characterized by intense discussions that frequently extended late into the night, culminating in the agreement announced on Saturday.
The proposed agreement, aimed at raising the debt ceiling for a two-year period, includes provisions intended to sway members of both parties to vote in favor. It encompasses a freeze on spending for domestic programs, increased spending on defense and veterans issues, new work requirements for federal food assistance programs, and changes to energy permitting regulations.
Nevertheless, even before the deal was announced, members of the House from both ends of the political spectrum expressed reservations about certain details expected to be included in the package. Republicans who advocated for larger spending cuts threatened to withhold their support, while Democrats voiced concerns that the new rules on social safety net programs would further push Americans into poverty.
Representative Bob Good, a Republican from Virginia, took to Twitter, stating, “No one claiming to be a conservative could justify a YES vote.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces the challenge of securing the votes of at least half of his party’s members, as he has promised. This crucial moment will test the strength of his speakership. President Joe Biden is also under pressure to garner support from Democrats, as their votes will likely be necessary for the bill to pass. Biden engaged in a conversation with Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the House responsible for rallying support from party members.
In a statement issued late Saturday, Biden acknowledged that the agreement represents a compromise, with the understanding that not everyone will be entirely satisfied. He emphasized the responsibility of governing and stated that the agreement protects key priorities and legislative accomplishments of him and congressional Democrats. Biden expressed strong encouragement for the House and Senate to pass the bill.
McCarthy announced that the final text of the package would be completed by Sunday, triggering a mandatory 72-hour review period for members of Congress. He hopes that the House can vote on the bill as early as Wednesday, allowing little time for party leaders to secure sufficient support.
In the Senate, a single member can delay the process for up to a week, further adding to the uncertainty as Washington races to avert a default.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has set June 5 as the deadline for the government to exhaust its funds to meet all financial obligations promptly. Defaulting on debt payments has never occurred in the history of the United States, and economists warn of catastrophic consequences should it happen.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a faction within the Republican Party, have already signaled their readiness for a fierce battle if they view the compromise as a significant retreat from Republican positions. Prior to the agreement’s announcement, concerns were raised about the duration of the proposed debt ceiling increase and the push to roll back spending to 2023 levels, while some advocated for capping spending at 2022 levels.
Texas Republican Representative Chip Roy, a conservative and member of the House Rules Committee, stated, “It is going to be a substantial price to earn my vote, and that price is the meaningful, substantial, transformative fiscal reform necessary.”
Another conservative House Republican, Representative Dan Bishop, predicted that smaller spending cuts would amount to “war.”
According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the agreement in principle reached by the White House and House Republicans includes raising the debt limit for two years and setting a cap on non-defense spending at the current fiscal year levels for 2024 and 2025.
As part of the deal, the White House appears to have made concessions