With June 5 as the deadline to avoid a debt default in the US, Democrats and Republicans mobilised their ranks on Monday to overcome internal reticence and pass the bill to raise the debt ceiling.
US President Joe Biden was clear when asked what he would say to Democrats unconvinced by the deal: “Talk to me,” he told reporters.
“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be closed by June 5. I’m confident we’ll get a vote in both houses,” he said, noting that it is a good bipartisan deal and that neither side has lost out.
The bill reached with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was announced on Sunday and sent to congressmen and senators for their consideration before a vote this week.
The White House said Monday that Biden is talking to lawmakers on a daily basis and is being briefed several times a day on progress toward approving a debt deal in the US to avoid a default that would be “catastrophic”.
Criticism has come from both sides: Republicans such as Dan Bishop and Chip Roy say the spending cuts are merely maintaining the status quo, while Democrat Pramila Jayapal, among others, has warned the White House that it should be concerned about progressive support for the deal.
“It should be supported by House Republicans,” Patrick McHenry, a lead negotiator on the conservative side, said in a call with reporters on Monday.
The US debt ceiling is set to rise over the next two years.
If approved, the compromise reached will raise the debt ceiling for the next two years, i.e. until after the next presidential election.
It maintains non-defence spending in 2024 and increases it by only 1% in 2025, and while the cuts will not affect health and social security programmes, some social programmes, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, will be affected.
“We must not let perfection be the enemy of the good. And this is a very, very good thing. It’s really a good step in the right direction. And I’m very happy to support it,” added Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez on the press call.
A total of 218 votes are needed for passage on Wednesday in the 435-member House of Representatives, which has 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats. If it passes, before Biden’s enactment, it would go to the Senate, where 60 yeses are needed. Democrats control 51 seats in the Senate and conservatives 49.
“Governing requires compromise, but it also requires responsibility. That’s what we’re doing,” the Republican negotiating team said on Monday.
The party’s “number three” in the lower house, Elise Stefanik, insisted on Monday that the bill will restore the “fiscal health” of the US and called it a “historic Republican victory”.