Neither the right flank of the Republican party nor some Democrats are happy with the deal that President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) struck to raise the nation’s debt limit alongside some policy reforms and spending clawbacks.
In one of the most colorful criticisms of the agreement, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) characterized it as a “turd-sandwich” Sunday morning, after vowing in another tweet that that he would try to stop the expected bill from making it out of the lower chamber.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the House Progressive Caucus, signaled on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the White House is likely to face some trouble drawing support from her caucus, which includes over 100 members of the narrowly divided chamber.
“We are one of the only countries in the world — if not the only country in the world — that is an industrialized country that puts any requirements on people who just want food,” Jayapal said of imposing some stricter work requirements on government assistance programs. She called it “very bad policy” and expressed doubts on its impact on curbing spending.
The deal announced Saturday night raises the debt ceiling until 2025 — well past the next election. A GOP one-pager indicated the debt deal would roll back nondefense discretionary spending to fiscal 2022 levels. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), though, said that accounting includes a clawback of $29 billion of unspent COVID funds. Another source said that nondefense spending would stay roughly flat when factoring in other agreed-upon appropriations adjustments.
The deal “locks in the bureaucracy as post-COVID level,” Bishop complained in a tweet, also expressing disappointment that the deal blocks just $1.9 billion of an $80 billion IRS funding boost that Democrats approved last year.
The bill is expected to be released later Sunday, after Biden and McCarthy speak to complete the agreement. Biden administration officials are also expected to speak with House Democrats afterward to brief them further on the legislation.
Leaders are eyeing a House vote Wednesday, complying with Republicans’ rule to have at least three days to review the text of a bill before voting.
But lawmakers weighing in on the deal indicated it may not have a smooth path across the finish line in Congress.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted that the deal had “fake spending cuts.”
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said he was “appalled by the debt ceiling surrender” Saturday, shortly after the deal was announced and was briefed by McCarthy with other members on the components of the agreement. “The bottom line is that the U.S. will have $35 trillion of debt in January, 2025,” he added.
McCarthy downplayed criticism from the right flank, saying the bill does not have any concessions for Democrats — and is far from their demands for a “clean” debt ceiling increase.
“We did a conference call with our conference, and over 95 percent were overwhelmingly excited about what they see,” McCarthy said in a press conference Sunday.
“We know that any time when you sit and negotiate within two parties, that you’ve got to work with both sides of the aisle. So it’s not 100 percent what everybody wants, but when you look, the country is going to be stronger,” McCarthy said.
Roy took issue with the 95 percent figure, saying in a tweet that he knows of “more no’s than that already.”
Biden has called the deal “an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone.”
But he similarly acknowledged that “not everyone” will get what they want as part of the compromise, while saying that the agreement protected his and congressional Democrats’ “key priorities and legislative accomplishments.” The White House has acknowledged the deal was the best it could do in a divided government.
For now, some Democrats are treating the deal with skepticism.
Jayapal on CNN would not directly answer whether beefed up work requirements for public assistance programs are a dealbreaker for her, instead opting to wait until seeing the forthcoming bill text and the specifics regarding changes for veterans.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) in a statement Sunday encouraged the president to continue considering unilaterally raising the debt limit through the 14th Amendment, which would utilize a risky and untested legal argument.
“Bill text, not toplines and hallway pressers, will determine whether this is a good or bad deal. The 14th amendment must remain an option,” Connolly said.
The White House started reaching out to Democratic members and staff in both chambers to brief them on the agreement as soon as it was announced, according to a Democratic source.
As more progressives and conservatives have drawn their own battle lines in recent weeks, there has been much expectation that both sides would likely be leaning heavily on moderates to pass a final bipartisan deal. But uncertainty remains around how some members toward the middle will receive the coming bill.
Moderate Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that he hadn’t yet “made up” his mind on the legislation. “I’m gonna listen to what the president’s and his people’s arguments are, but no, I’m anything but a clear yes vote at this point.”
Summing up the reactions from both sides in the past day, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who previously served as Democratic whip, said on MSNBC on Sunday that “there’s a lot of whining on the right” and “a lot of concern on the left.”
“But I do believe that in the final analysis, both parties will come together and we’re gonna have an agreement that the American people can be happy with, and I think that we can be comfortable with as long as legislators,” he added.
Hard-line conservatives within Congress, as well as their allies outside of it, are starting to mobilize against the bill.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) had pledged last week to use “every procedural tool at my disposal” to slow down a debt limit bill that does not meet his standards.
Russ Vought, the president of Citizens for Renewing America who was instrumental in the strategy of those resisting McCarthy for Speaker in January and extracting concessions from him, suggested that three of the 20 members who resisted McCarthy for Speaker could block the bill from coming to the House floor.
McCarthy appointed Roy, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) to the House Rules Committee — the last stop before legislation gets a floor vote — after he won the gavel.
But three Republicans could block the legislation only if all four Democrats on the panel voted against it — a move that would be a historic rebuke to the White House.
Mike Lillis, Brett Samuels and Mychael Schnell contributed.