(WASHINGTON) — A critical deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling was announced over the weekend, and lawmakers in Washington now face one week to pass the bill in both chambers of Congress before the predicted deadline when default would begin.
Unless the $31.4 trillion borrowing limit is increased, the U.S. will run out of cash to pay all of its bills in full and on time — the so-called “X-date” — as early as June 5, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Despite the breakthrough on an agreement between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, legislative hurdles remain to get the 99-page debt and spending bill to Biden’s desk by next Monday.
The narrow margins in the House and Senate mean both Democratic and Republican moderates will likely have to back the bill.
May 27: Deal announced
Biden and McCarthy, after weeks of back and forth, announced on Saturday that they had reached a deal in principle on a two-year government budget in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling through January 2025.
May 28: Bill text is unveiled
The legislation, named the “Fiscal Responsibility Act,” was publicly released on Sunday evening.
That started a 72-hour countdown, which is the period of time McCarthy promised to his members to review the legislation before a vote in the House.
Addressing reporters outside his office, the speaker touted what he called efforts to improve transparency and process in Congress — for the public.
“I’m trying to change the House where it works again,” he said.
May 30: Lawmakers will return, rules committee to meet
Members are due to return Tuesday from the Memorial Day recess.
The House Rules Committee, made up of nine Republicans and four Democrats, is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. ET to set the parameters under which the debt ceiling bill will be considered.
Two of the nine Republicans have publicly criticized the agreement: Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Chip Roy of Texas, both with the hardline House Freedom Caucus.
Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a fiscal hawk, has also been considered a possible holdout, though McCarthy singled him out for praise on Sunday for successfully proposing a fallback measure for spending cuts in the deal with the White House.
If all three were opposed to the bill in committee, a Democrat would need to join the remaining Republicans to vote to advance the bill to the full House.
McCarthy, arriving at the Capitol on Monday, said he wasn’t worried about the committee meeting.
May 31: House to vote
The bill is expected to go to the House on Wednesday evening.
The number of votes needed to pass the legislation, if all members are present, is 218.
Currently, Republicans hold the House 222-213 and, theoretically, some Democrats would be needed if there are more than four conservative defections.
But lawmakers from the wings of both parties have expressed dissatisfaction with some of the details of the deal.
Some members of the Freedom Caucus, who sought more sweeping spending reductions, have said they will try to stop it from passing the House.
Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus, likewise on Sunday said congressional leaders should “worry” about garnering enough support from the group given qualms with the compromise with Republicans.
The White House and Republican leadership have been holding calls and briefings to sell the deal, with more meetings planned, ABC News has reported.
McCarthy predicted to ABC’s Trish Turner on Sunday that a majority of Republicans will support it. House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said on CBS’ Face the Nation he expects that there “will be Democratic support once we have the ability to actually be fully briefed by the White House” but he wouldn’t predict what the number of votes would look like.
He also said, “I do hope and expect to see a significant number of House Republicans voting for this agreement. It’s my understanding that they are committed to producing at least 150 votes, if not more.”
Upon departing the White House Sunday afternoon en route to Delaware, Biden told ABC News’ Elizabeth Schulze that there’s “no reason” the debt limit deal shouldn’t get done by June 5.
The president also said he’s been working the phones speaking to a “number” of legislators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Two congressional Democratic sources described the White House’s sell as a “full court press.”)
“I never say I’m confident with the Congress … but I feel very good about it,” Biden said.
May 31 or later: Senate consideration
Assuming the debt ceiling bill passes the House on Wednesday night, the Senate would immediately begin processing the legislation, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has told colleagues.
Unanimous consent would allow the chamber to skip debate and quickly hold a vote, but it would take just one lawmaker to hold up proceedings.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, previously said he would use every procedural tool available to delay a bill if it didn’t have what he called “substantial spending and budgetary reforms.” On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., suggested he would create a similar roadblock because, he argued, the debt agreement was a “catastrophe for defense.”
Schumer alluded to the possibility of hang-ups in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Sunday.
“Senators should prepare for potential Friday and weekend votes,” he wrote.
If a filibuster materializes, it could delay final passage for as long as a week — beyond the estimated default deadline of June 5.
A key endorsement for the deal came Sunday from McConnell, who called on his colleagues to “act swiftly and pass this agreement without unnecessary delay.”
“The United States of America will not default on its debt,” McConnell said in a statement. “Today’s 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.”
June 5: The “X-date”
There’s little room for error in Congress in order to pass legislation by next Monday.
The Treasury Department announced last week that its new “X-date” estimate was June 5, providing lawmakers with a bit of extra time to pass a deal. Yellen had earlier warned the U.S. could run out of money to pay all of its bills as early as June 1.
“Based on the most recent available data, we now estimate that Treasury will have insufficient resources to satisfy the government’s obligations if Congress has not raised or suspended the debt limit by June 5,” Yellen wrote in a letter to McCarthy on Friday.
Biden said Sunday he thought the legislation would make it to his desk.
“The speaker and I made clear from the start that the only way forward was a bipartisan agreement,” he said. “That agreement now goes to the United States House and to the Senate. And I strongly urge both chambers to pass that agreement.”
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