Kevin McCarthy hopes overnight changes will defeat debt ceiling holdouts


WASHINGTON — Despite insisting they would not change their debt ceiling, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives caved in to demands from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and other GOP holdouts after 2 a.m. Wednesday.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the changes had garnered enough naysayers to get the 218 votes needed to pass the law, which aims to increase the federal government’s borrowing limit. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) previously said the passage would occur this week.

Gaetz had declined to support the bill because the strict labor requirements he is proposing for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — which provides food assistance to eligible recipients based on factors such as income level and employment — would not go into effect until 2025 .

So leader changed the text to say 2024 instead. But Gaetz still wasn’t ready to say yes.

“I just didn’t have a chance to check what was being done at 2 a.m.,” Gaetz told HuffPost after exiting a party meeting.

McCarthy also edited the bill to get green energy tax credits that benefit the agribusiness, according to demands from a bloc of Midwestern lawmakers. Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) said he would support the updated legislation.

But Rep. Nancy Mace (RS.C.) said she remained skeptical, and Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told the HuffPost he was no.

Given the GOP’s narrow GOP majority in the House of Representatives, McCarthy can only lose four Republicans and still pass the bill since all Democrats are likely to oppose it.

The goal of raising the borrowing limit results from the current fiscal rules. As government spending exceeds tax revenue, the Treasury must sell debt to continue paying basic spending. But the current debt ceiling has already blocked further borrowing and could cause the government to default on its debt sometime this summer, which economists say would cause a financial crisis and recession.

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President Joe Biden has called on Congress to raise the debt limit, but Republicans have pledged they will only do so if Biden agrees to significant spending cuts. The President has so far refused to negotiate.

The Republican-proposed bill would reduce federal spending by nearly $5 trillion over a decade, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, which uses an earlier version of the text. It would also reduce SNAP enrollment by 275,000 each month and the Medicaid health program by 600,000.

The amendment, which Gaetz won, would likely increase the number of people who lose out on SNAP benefits, which help 20 million households with their grocery bills.

In any case, Republicans’ efforts to push the law forward are largely symbolic, given that Democrats control the Senate and White House. But the GOP hopes its passage in the House of Representatives would force Biden into negotiations.

“We’re proud that this legislation passed this week, but it’s about time President Biden stopped hiding, stopped trying to run out the clock,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R- La.), the number two Republican in the House of Representatives,” he said at a news conference.

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