WASHINGTON (AP) — Steering away from a default crisis, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a debt limit and budget cut package Wednesday, after President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy managed to agree a bipartisan coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans who oppose conservative hardliners and progressive dissent.
The deal didn’t please many, but lawmakers considered it better than the alternative: a devastating economic shock should Congress fail to reach an agreement. Tensions ran high throughout the day, as more conservative Republicans rejected the deal, while Democrats said “extremist” Republican stances risked a debt default next week.RELATED
With an overwhelming approval by 314 votes in favor and 117 against in the House of Representatives, the initiative now goes to the Senate, where its approval is expected before the end of the week.
McCarthy insisted his party was working to “give America hope” as he addressed an afternoon speech touting the budget cuts in the initiative, which he called necessary to curb Washington’s “runaway spending.”
But disgruntled by Republicans who said the restrictions were not enough, McCarthy said they were just a “first step.”
The package makes some progress in limiting the country’s debt, as demanded by the Republicans, without reversing the tax discounts implemented during the Donald Trump administration, as Biden wanted. For their approval, Biden and McCarthy had the support of the political center, something highly unusual in a divided Washington.
In a statement released after the vote, Biden stated: “I have been very clear that the only way forward is a bipartisan compromise that can win bipartisan support. This deal does that.”
He referred to the vote as “good news for the American people and the American economy.”
Biden had sent senior White House officials to the Capitol and phoned lawmakers directly to secure their support. McCarthy lobbied skeptical Republicans, even repelling attempts to impeach his leadership, in order to avoid a potentially disastrous federal default.
A speedy passage later this week in the Senate would ensure that government checks continue to flow to Social Security recipients and veterans, among others, and prevent financial disruption nationally and internationally. The Treasury Department had said that the country would run out of funds to pay its debts next Monday.
In total, the 99-page bill restricts spending for the next two years, suspends the debt limit until January 2025, and makes some policy changes, including imposing new work requirements for older Americans receiving food assistance, plus it gives the green light to the Appalachian pipeline that many Democrats oppose.
In addition, it reinforces the funds for defense and veterans, and cancels new funds for agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS for its initials in English).
Raising the country’s debt limit, which now stands at $31 trillion, ensures that the Treasury can now borrow to pay off debts the United States has already incurred.