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Debt ceiling news: With debt limit vote closer, White House makes final push for Democratic support

The White House is holding calls with House Democrats about the details of the agreement Monday and Tuesday.
Image: A pedestrian walks past the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Nov. 7, 2022.
President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy signed off on the agreement over the weekend.J. David Ake / AP file

Latest developments on the debt ceiling deal:

  • President Joe Biden on Sunday announced a debt ceiling deal that he said would avoid a “catastrophic default” by the federal government while keeping the economy fluid.
  • House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said at a news conference Sunday that he expects that over 95% of House Republicans will support the 99-page bill. The House is expected to take up the measure Wednesday.
  • The House Rules Committee is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday afternoon. Some of the nine Republicans on the panel — which is divided 9-4 between Republicans and Democrats — are conservative hard-liners who are critical of the agreement, meaning there's a chance they could kill the bill if no Democrats support it.
  • Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a Congressional Progressive Caucus member, said Sunday that a "large majority" of House Democrats are "in flux" over whether they will support the deal. Top Democratic concerns during a call Sunday night with the White House included Covid relief clawbacks and work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. More White House calls with House members are expected Monday and Tuesday.
120d ago / 5:52 AM UTC

House GOP hardliners trash debt limit bill as party leaders try to shore up votes

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The race is on for congressional leaders to secure the votes to pass a bipartisan compromise struck by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to avert a catastrophic debt default with just a week to go before the June 5 deadline.

Facing skepticism or criticism within their ranks, both party’s leaders mobilized on Monday to shore up support for the bill.

House Republicans leaders held a conference call with reporters on Monday to promote the agreement.

“This is a historic Republican victory,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the GOP conference chair. “It will cut spending year-over-year.”

The call came as Republican hardliners in both chambers sniped at the deal, setting the stage for a contentious showdown Tuesday in the House Rules Committee, which is scheduled to consider the bill before an expected vote in the full House on Wednesday.

Read the full story.

121d ago / 1:05 AM UTC
121d ago / 12:06 AM UTC

Republicans feel confident, tout CBO estimates

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Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said Monday that the debt ceiling bill "will absolutely pass.”

“There’s no question about that," he said. "I’ve talked to dozens of members, and listen, not every single member is on board. But when was the last time that every single member of Congress agreed on anything?”

Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., touted new Congressional Budget Office estimates provided to some in Republican leadership that have not been made public, two GOP sources said. The estimates say the Biden-McCarthy bill would cut $2.1 trillion in spending — slightly more than what Republicans originally projected.

Johnson pulled out a screenshot of a chart that showed how much the budget agreement would save compared Biden’s budget or the CBO's baseline projection.

“I think anybody who thought that this was going to solve every single problem facing the union in one fell swoop probably needs to buy a ticket back to reality,” he said. “We deal with issues when they’re ripe in this town, and right now what we need to do is get our arms around nondefense discretionary spending.”

121d ago / 11:25 PM UTC
121d ago / 10:37 PM UTC

White House hammers the phones with House Democrats

A White House official says senior staffers continue to work the phones to sell the debt ceiling deal to moderate and progressive Democratic lawmakers, including holding briefings in small groups and one-on-one calls to respond to any technical questions from lawmakers and their staff members.

From Saturday night through Sunday, senior staffers and Cabinet officials have collectively made one-on-one calls to more than 60 House Democrats, including the leadership, the ranking members of committees, various caucus chairs and the so-called cardinals who serve as ranking members of the Appropriations subcommittees.

One-on-one calls with senators also began ramping up Monday.

121d ago / 10:07 PM UTC
121d ago / 9:22 PM UTC

New Democrat Coalition pushes for passage of debt limit bill

The leadership of the New Democrat Coalition on Monday endorsed the bipartisan debt ceiling deal struck by Biden and McCarthy, saying in a release that they would "remain in close consultation" with the administration to ensure the bill goes to Biden's desk without "unnecessary delay."

"Compromise depends on give and take and this bill required concessions from both sides," the leaders of the moderate House Democratic group said. "Defaulting on our debt, as some radical Republicans suggest we should do, is not an option — doing so would plunge the United States into an unprecedented crisis that would likely lose up to seven million jobs, wipe out $10 trillion in household wealth, and irreparably damage the economic and political power of the U.S. dollar on the world stage."

121d ago / 9:05 PM UTC

Did McCarthy make a previously unknown concession during his negotiations for House speaker?

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Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, tweeted Monday that McCarthy made yet another concession we previously didn’t know about during his negotiations for the speakership: “that nothing would pass Rules Committee without AT LEAST 7 GOP votes.”

A source familiar with the matter confirmed the apparent handshake agreement between McCarthy’s leadership team and the caucus members, but disputed Roy’s assertion, also made in the tweet, that “the Committee would not allow reporting out rules without unanimous Republican votes.”

McCarthy’s allies threw cold water on both items.

"I’m a rules guy," Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., told reporters. "When somebody tells me something has to happen a certain way, the first thing I do is get out the rules. And when I checked, there wasn’t a rule that something has to come out of Rules unanimously."

On the seven GOP votes, Johnson added, “If those conversations took place, the rest of the conference was unaware of them. And frankly, I doubt them. I haven’t talked to the speaker about them yet today, but I would be a little surprised if that was a kind of a commitment.”

121d ago / 8:42 PM UTC

Lindsey Graham calls debt bill a 'catastrophe' for national defense

121d ago / 8:16 PM UTC

Rep. Dingell says Democrats 'are being held hostage' by debt deal

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Monday that the debt deal contains "things I would never vote for under normal circumstances," adding that she will keep "asking questions" before she makes a decision on how she will vote on the bill.

"We are being held hostage," Dingell told MSNBC's Chris Jansing. "That is a very real word for where we are right now."

Dingell added she would be joining a briefing Monday with White House energy adviser John Podesta.

"We should never be in this position again, and yet I cannot and will not be a rubber stamp," she said. "The people of this district elected me to be here." 

121d ago / 8:03 PM UTC

Sen. Tim Kaine aims to strip natural gas pipeline from bill

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The inclusion of expedited approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in the debt limit deal, a key priority of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is drawing the expected criticism from fellow Democrats who will be affected by the project. 

A spokesperson for Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., says he will file an amendment to strip the provision out of the bill. Kaine has been opposed to Congress moving to expedite the pipeline, which would pass through Virginia. 

"Senator Kaine is extremely disappointed by the provision of the bill to greenlight the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia, bypassing the normal judicial and administrative review process every other energy project has to go through," the spokesperson said. "This provision is completely unrelated to the debt ceiling matter."

It’s unclear if Kaine will get a vote on his amendment, but a deal to speed up consideration of the bill would likely include a number of amendment votes.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., also is opposed to the provision being included in the bill, but a spokesperson for Warner says he will still support the legislation.

121d ago / 7:38 PM UTC

What's in the debt limit bill? Key provisions in the Biden-McCarthy deal to avert default

The bipartisan deal struck by Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy extends the debt limit for two years alongside modest federal spending cuts and a series of policy provisions.

The 99-page Fiscal Responsibility Act, which McCarthy says will get a vote in the Republican-led House on Wednesday, will need to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate before the June 5 deadline set by the Treasury Department to act or risk default.

Republicans and Democrats each won some concessions in the legislation.

Read the full story here.

121d ago / 7:15 PM UTC

Biden to skeptical Democrats: 'Talk to me'

Departing the White House for Delaware on Monday afternoon, Biden said he has been calling Democratic lawmakers to try to garner their support for the debt limit deal, adding that his message to skeptical Democrats is "talk to me."

“Look, you know I never say I’m confident what the Congress is going to do, but I feel very good about it," Biden said. "I have spoken to a number of the members. I’ve spoken to McConnell. I spoke to a whole bunch of people. And it feels good. We’ll see when the vote starts.

"And look, one of the things that I hear some of you guys saying is: Why doesn’t Biden say what a good deal it is? Why wouldn’t Biden say what a good deal it is before the vote? Do you think that’s going to help me get it passed? No. That’s why you guys don’t bargain very well."

The president added that there was "no reason" the bill shouldn't be passed by June 5, the date at which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the U.S. could default.

121d ago / 6:53 PM UTC

Mitt Romney urges House and Senate to pass the debt ceiling bill

121d ago / 6:33 PM UTC

McCarthy says he's not worried about losing Rules Committee members in Tuesday vote

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said upon arriving at the Capitol on Monday, “Don’t worry about hypotheticals,” when asked by NBC News whether he’s concerned about the optics of losing Republicans and needing Democratic support in the Rules Committee meeting on the debt ceiling deal.

The meeting, which two sources familiar with planning say is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, is significant because some of the nine Republicans on the powerful panel — usually stacked with allies of leadership — are conservative hard-liners who railed all weekend against the agreement struck by McCarthy and Biden.

GOP Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of South Carolina will have major leverage as the committee, which decides how and when a bill moves to the full House for consideration, considers the legislation.

The meeting is expected to last several hours. If three Republicans on the panel, which has a 9-4 split, vote against the rule, it would kill the bill unless Democrats also vote for the rule.

The full House is expected to begin processing the legislation Wednesday as early as 3:30 p.m., with a final vote not expected until after markets close, possibly as late as 8:30 p.m. The bill will then be filed in the Senate for consideration. The House is currently not in session Thursday and Friday.

121d ago / 6:03 PM UTC

Conservative and liberal House members holding separate meetings on the debt ceiling bill

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Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are returning to Washington on Monday for an in-person meeting to decide their next steps on the debt ceiling bill, a source familiar with their plans told NBC News.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus are meeting Monday at 3 p.m. ET, sources with knowledge of their plans said. 

121d ago / 5:25 PM UTC

OMB director defends the outcome of debt ceiling talks

The director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, said Monday morning on NBC's "TODAY" show that the debt limit deal that the White House and Republicans agreed to "strikes a responsible tone" — but she did not give a definitive answer when asked if she was confident it had the votes to pass Congress.

"We negotiated with the speaker," Young said, referring to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "The speaker, I’m sure, is talking to his conference and ensuring that his members can support this package."

"Members know that default would have been devastating to this country, and on balance, this deal strikes a responsible tone," Young added.

Responding to criticism from progressive Democrats about the agreement, Young defended President Joe Biden's stance on the issues.

"This president has a record that shows he fights for working-class families and those who need a little leg up," Young said.

"We’re not going to compromise our values for people," she added. "On work reforms, they are in this bill. But mind you, we got new exemptions for the homeless in this country, and for veterans."

121d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

McConnell calls for swift passage of the debt limit bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for senators to "swiftly" pass the debt limit bill, saying Sunday that the agreement "makes urgent progress toward preserving our nation’s full faith and credit and a much-needed step toward getting its financial house in order."

McConnell said he was "especially grateful" to McCarthy and House Republicans for working to tie a debt limit increase to "serious steps to rein in Washington Democrats’ addiction to reckless spending."

The agreement "sets meaningful limits on the administration’s spending agenda," he said. "At the same time, it secures permitting reforms and reinforces the link between federal assistance and work."

Any one senator can stop the Senate from trying to quickly pass the bill once the House sends it over. Without an agreement among all 100 senators, processing the bill in the Senate could take as long as a week.

121d ago / 3:59 PM UTC

SNAP work requirements and Covid clawbacks top Democrats' concerns, House member says

House Democrats raised concerns about Covid clawbacks and work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program during a Sunday night call with the White House about the debt ceiling deal, a House member who was on the call said.

Representatives from various Democratic caucuses — including the New Democrat Coalition; the Progressive Caucus; and the Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific American caucuses — raised questions about the deal during the hourlong call. The White House emphasized the GOP provisions that President Joe Biden prevented from being included in the deal, the lawmaker said.

121d ago / 3:08 PM UTC

White House holding calls with House Democrats on Monday and Tuesday

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The White House will hold calls with House Democrats on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the debt ceiling deal in granular detail, two sources with knowledge of the plan said.

There will be three meetings each day, which will focus on energy policy, appropriations levels and changes to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the sources said. The briefings, which will take place in the afternoons, will be led by White House energy adviser John Podesta, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, and economic adviser Aviva Aron-Dine.

121d ago / 2:39 PM UTC

Bill includes natural gas pipeline approval sought by Manchin

The debt limit bill’s final text notably includes the expedited approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that has been opposed by climate hawks and is a key priority of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. 

Manchin has been trying to get approval of the pipeline since last year, when he included it in a permitting reform bill that failed to get added to the defense authorization bill late last year.

The inclusion of the pipeline provision drew objections from fellow Democrats, including Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who said last September that greenlighting the project would be "contrary to the spirit of permitting reform. Such a deliberate action by Congress to put its thumb on the scale and simply approve this project while shutting down opportunities for full administrative or judicial review is at odds with the bipartisan desire to have a more transparent and workable permitting process.”

It's unclear if the inclusion of the pipeline approval language will draw significant Democratic opposition to the deal.

121d ago / 1:57 PM UTC
121d ago / 1:55 PM UTC

Rep. Ro Khanna says 'large majority' of House Democrats are 'in flux' on the deal

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a Congressional Progressive Caucus member, said Sunday night that he was undecided about how he would vote on the budget deal hammered out by the White House and congressional Republicans.

“My sense is a large majority of the House Democratic Caucus is in flux as to where they’re going to be on this,” he said in an interview with NBC News.

Khanna said he is concerned about how the deal treats student loan forgiveness and work requirements for entitlement programs. He said he was also troubled by language in the bill that would expedite completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a victory for influential Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., but a setback for the environmental movement.

Khanna added that he wanted to talk to more colleagues before he decides how to vote — the progressives have scheduled a conference call for Monday, he said.

121d ago / 1:55 PM UTC

Bipartisan agreement reached to avoid debt-limit default, Biden announces

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President Joe Biden on Sunday announced a debt ceiling deal he said would avoid a “catastrophic default” by the federal government while keeping the economy fluid.

“It takes the threat of catastrophic default off the table,” Biden said in a brief statement about the bipartisan agreement, which would still need approval from both chambers of Congress.

Biden expressed relief that the debt ceiling would not be in play for budget negotiations between Democrats and Republicans for two years.

“I strongly urge both chambers to pass that agreement,” he said. “Let’s keep moving forward.”

Biden said he had just spoken to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who earlier Sunday had expressed confidence that their debt ceiling deal would pass Congress, despite early criticism from some lawmakers.

McCarthy, R-Calif., said at a news conference that he expects that over 95% of House Republicans will support the 99-page bill, the language of which he released Sunday evening.

Read the full story here.