Legislation to raise the public debt ceiling and set federal spending limits begins its bumpy path through Congress on Tuesday with consideration by a crucial panel where it will face its first test as congressional leaders they rush to get approval ahead of a default expected in less than a week.
The House Rules Committee is typically a rubber stamp for party leaders, but the panel includes some far-right Republicans who Chairman Kevin McCarthy added in January to help him win over conservatives during his battle for the speaker. Now that concession could prove problematic, with far-right lawmakers rioting over the debt limit deal between McCarthy and President Biden.
They have argued that the plan doesn’t cut spending substantially enough and have threatened to use their seats in the panel to try to block it off the floor.
The commission is expected to meet at 15:00 to examine the ground rules for bringing the package to a vote as early as Wednesday. The bill was finalized Sunday after Biden and McCarthy sealed their deal and aides rushed to draft it into legislation that will need to be considered quickly to avoid a default as soon as June 5, when Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen estimated that the federal government will run out of money to pay its bills without Congress intervening.
Two of the ultra-conservative members of the Rules Committee, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, have registered strong opposition to the measure and may vote against its advancement, in a clean break with the speaker. If they are joined by another Republican on the committee, they could shelve the deal before it even reaches the floor.
A third ultra-conservative on the panel, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, is seen as a potential ally of Mr. Roy and Mr. Norman, but has shown willingness to agree on the debt limit. He cited a provision he helped write that would automatically cut spending if Congress fails to pass annual appropriations bills. Lawmakers are generally expected to support the bills they helped write, even if they oppose other aspects.
“This debt deal probably puts us on a better footing to do the appropriation process properly,” Massie said on Twitter on Monday.
If far-right Republicans rally against the legislation, GOP members who support the bill could also turn to Democrats on the panel for support for the measure. But the minority party historically opposes the majority in procedural matters. If Mr. McCarthy were forced to rely on Democrats for a rule win, he would look weak and could be vulnerable to an attempt to oust him. Democrats would also likely seek some compromise in exchange for their support.
Mr. Roy added another potential complication on Monday when he said on Twitter that Mr. McCarthy had promised during the speaker talks that the bills would only pass the floor with the support of every Republican in the committee on public affairs. rules.
« A reminder that during the president’s negotiations to build the coalition, he was explicit both that nothing would be approved by the Rules Committee without AT LEAST 7 GOP votes – AND that the Committee would not allow rules to be reported without unanimous Republican votes, » he written.
That deal was not part of the Republican-approved rule package approved by the House, but Mr. McCarthy agreed to several informal deals that were never disclosed. The speaker’s office did not respond to a request for a reaction from Mr. Roy, and Mr. McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday that he was not concerned about discussions of the legislation’s prospects at the Rules Committee.
The panel is just one of the hurdles the legislation will need to clear in what is likely to be an almost week-long passage push before next Monday.
If it emerges from the rules committee, the bill will need a combination of Republican and Democratic votes to pass the House. It would then head to the Senate, where even conservative Republicans aren’t happy with the framework and can at least slow down its passage with procedural tactics.
« The Conservatives have been sold out yet again! » Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican known for raising procedural hurdles on the legislation in the past, said on Twitter.
As senators sifted through the legislation, a Republican Senate aide said there was growing unease about the level of Pentagon spending that the legislation would allow for, but that the turmoil probably wouldn’t be enough to derail the bill in the Senate with impending default.
Mr Biden sought to ease those concerns about military spending on Monday, telling reporters at the White House that « obviously if there’s an existential need for additional funding, I have no doubt we’ll be able to get it. »
He remained confident that the legislation would pass before a default
« There’s no reason it shouldn’t be done by 5, » he said. « I’m confident we’ll get a vote in both chambers and we’ll see. »