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Averting default hinges on holding the middle

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Kevin McCarthy
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy walks to the House chamber at Capitol Hill, on May 30, 2023. Jose Luis Magana / AP

If it’s WEDNESDAY… Debt-ceiling bill passes first key hurdle in the GOP-led House, and now the legislation heads for a full floor vote… President Biden receives briefing on extreme weather preparedness at noon ET… Ron DeSantis, in Iowa, takes jabs at Donald Trump… And former First Lady Rosalynn Carter is diagnosed with dementia.

But FIRST... Conservative House Freedom Caucus members loathe the debt-ceiling compromise bill. So do progressive Democrats.

But will the pragmatic middle hold?

 That’s the question we have as the full House is expected to vote on the legislation Wednesday — at a time when the political middle is shrinking.

NBC’s Garrett Haake tees up the legislative drama.

"This morning, the race is on to round up the votes to avoid an unprecedented government default now just FIVE days away,” Haake reported on “TODAY” this morning. “Some hope on the horizon after the bill cleared a major roadblock overnight. Now the bipartisan compromise struck by President Biden and Speaker McCarthy [is] headed to the House floor today.”

The other revealing part of this entire debt-ceiling debate is how negative partisanship has influenced it.

Last week, progressive media and commentators were upset at Biden for negotiating with House Republicans on the debt ceiling, and that made conservatives happy.

But this week, as the same progressive outlets and commentators say that they’re relatively pleased with the deal and that Biden “won” the negotiations, conservatives are now unhappy. 

It’s just fascinating how negative partisanship shapes these perceptions — that one side is happy/unhappy based on how the other side is reacting.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is ... 2

That’s the number of Republicans on the House Rules Committee who voted against adopting the debt limit bill, not enough opposition to stymie the nascent deal. 

NBC News’ Sahil Kapur and Summer Concepcion report that GOP Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Chip Roy of Texas joined the four Democrats on the panel to vote against the debt ceiling bill. But the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the deal negotiated by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, passed through the Rules Committee on a 7-6 vote on Tuesday evening. 

The two “no” votes are a reminder that the deal hardly faces smooth sailing as it must pass through a divided Congress, with many conservatives frustrated the deal doesn’t include more cuts and some progressive Democrats criticizing policies like new welfare requirements.  

But now that it’s survived the Rules Committee, the legislation is expected to hit the House floor Wednesday for a full vote. 

Other numbers you need to know today

2: The number of Democratic House lawmakers who will miss the vote on the debt ceiling this week due to health issues, per the Washington Post.

23: The number of states who already have legalized or plan to legalize recreational marijuana, after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill into law on Tuesday, the Star Tribune reports.

11: The number of years that Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will serve after she reported to federal prison to begin her sentence on Tuesday.

33%: The portion of the $44 billion price tag that Elon Musk paid to buy Twitter that Fidelity estimates the company is worth now, Bloomberg reports. 

2: The number of years to which Pauline Bauer, a rioter who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and said she wanted then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought out to the mob, was sentenced to prison on Tuesday.

$300 million: The expected value of a new military aid package to Ukraine that the U.S. is expected to announce this week

32: The number of years that Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz served in the agency. He announced Wednesday that he plans to retire at the end of June.

About 10%: The portion of people who suffered long Covid after an omicron infection, according to a new study of 10,000 patients reported on by the Associated Press, meaning they had symptoms six months after infection. 

Eyes on 2024: GOP hopefuls weigh in on debt limit deal

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took some questions from the press on Tuesday during a campaign stop in Iowa, and he used the opportunity to take some swipes at former President Donald Trump, NBC News’ Dasha Burns, Gabe Gutierrez, Abigail Brooks and Bianca Seward report from the Hawkeye State.

DeSantis chided Trump for not yet taking a position on the deal that President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck to raise the debt ceiling and impose some spending cuts. (Trump hasn’t weighed in since the deal was struck, but warned earlier that Republicans should let the country default unless Democrats “give you massive cuts.”)

“Are you leading from the front? Are you waiting for polls to tell you what position to take? I lead from the front on this. I reviewed the deal. I spoke with people I trusted and I put out a statement saying where I stand, and I didn’t need to put my finger in the wind,” DeSantis said, later adding that Trump “owes it to folks to come out and take a position.”

DeSantis had previously criticized the agreement, saying the country “will still be careening towards bankruptcy.” And he isn’t the only presidential hopeful to do so. 

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement that adding to the debt “without substantially cutting spending is no way to run our country’s fiscal affairs.” Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramswamy said he would vote against the deal, saying, “We should stand for principles, not incrementalism or window-dressing.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is weighing a run for the White House, said the deal “doesn’t just kick the can down the road, it uses Washington smoke and mirror games to make small reforms while weakening our military.”

But former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson praised McCarthy, telling The Sunday Show on MSNBC that McCarthy “has done an excellent job in shepherding this for the Republican majority in Congress, particularly on the work requirement issue.”

In other campaign news…

Friend request: DeSantis’ campaign made its first ad buy, per AdImpact, focusing on a digital buy, spending at least $300,000 on Facebook and Google. 

Money moves: NBC News’ Matt Dixon scoops that before DeSantis launched his campaign, his administration “quietly changed state guidelines” to allow a state-level political group to transfer funds to a federal super PAC, which DeSantis’ political operation is poised to do (or may have already done). The plan to transfer that money has sparked a complaint from the Campaign Legal Center, which was filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday, Dixon reports. 

Collision course: The two GOP hopefuls from South Carolina, Haley and GOP Sen. Tim Scott, are facing an “inevitable collision” in the early primary state, the Post and Courier reports. 

Time for some traffic problems in the GOP primary: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to launch his presidential campaign next week, Axios reports.  

LIV and Let Die: Ramaswamy fired one of his campaign’s consulting firms, Gitcho Goodwin, after the firm registered as foreign agents to do work for the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league, Politico reports.

No thanks: GOP Rep. Warren Davidson has decided not to run for Senate in Ohio, reports. 

Thinking about it: Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson, one of three Democrats who Republicans tried to expel after protesting on the state House floor, is considering challenging GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn, per the Chattanooga Times Free Press. 

California love: California Secretary of State Shirley Weber is endorsing Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee’s Senate bid

Kentucky ad wars continue: A group affiliated with the Republican Governors Association is up with a new spot criticizing Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear over his March veto of restrictions on transgender youth (the legislature ultimately overruled that veto). 

Heading out? The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart plans to announce his resignation from Congress as early as Wednesday, a move that, per the Deseret News, could mean the seat remains vacant until next year. 

Bowing out: Ohio Republican JR Majewski is ending his congressional bid citing his mother’s forthcoming heart procedure, Politico reports. Majewski lost a bid last year to Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in a key district for Republicans after allegations he misstated his military record (which Majewski denies).  

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world?

Over 200 academics and tech executives signed a statement published Tuesday warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence for the world. 

Several members of Congress are threatening to block funding to expand the temporary Colorado headquarters of the U.S. Space Command until the Defense Department officially announces where the permanent headquarters will be, which the Trump administration promised would be in Alabama. 

Alabama GOP Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law banning transgender women from playing on female sports teams in college.