Can McCarthy Get His Debt Ceiling Deal Across the Finish Line?

As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy heads back to Congress today to try and get a debt ceiling deal through the chamber he fought so hard to gain control of, he is definitely going to be facing stiff competition.


Conservatives in the House are nothing short of livid that a deal on the debt ceiling doesn’t seem to actually curb spending much at all. The House Freedom Caucus is holding a press conference today to blast the deal, making McCarthy’s prospects of getting the bill passed look bleak. House leadership and the Republican Party as a whole are pushing the deal as a win, however, and are sticking to their line.

It is likely, however, that Democrats rally with Biden’s blessing and vote to pass the bill, making it a bipartisan effort that heads to the Senate. From there, the Democrats definitely have the votes to pass it.

But when it comes to the progressives in both chambers, it’s somewhat unclear how the bill plays. Some initial reporting suggested the Democrats were all on board. Subsequent whispers from Congress (that seem to originate from party leadership) suggest progressives are furious about what they had to give up.

The bill’s first test, though, comes today as it goes before the House Rules Committee.

Already, two conservative Republicans on the committee, Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, have said they oppose the deal. The committee is made up of nine Republicans and four Democrats.

The debt-ceiling agreement would suspend the borrowing limit for two years and curb government spending during that time. It would cut spending on domestic priorities favored by Democrats while boosting military spending by about 3%. It also would extend limits on food assistance to some beneficiaries to prod them to find jobs and would speed up environmental reviews for energy projects.

House Justice
Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Roy, in particular, has been vocally opposed to the deal from the outset and spent a large part of the Memorial Day weekend reviewing and blasting the deal. Other conservatives in the House and the Senate joined in, expressing extreme disappointment in just how little unnecessary spending seemed to be clawed back – particularly for Green New Deal initiatives found in the Inflation Reduction Act.

But for those thinking conservatives may pull the trigger on the lingering threat to vacate the chair – a procedure that was made easier in the agreement to support McCarthy for Speaker in the first place – that may not be on the table… yet.

But two dynamics help explain why McCarthy has been resilient — at least so far: (1) The backroom horse-trading, it turns out, helped McCarthy forge relationships with the right in a way his predecessors never did. And (2) the GOP base simply isn’t up in arms opposing him.

Boehner and his successor, PAUL RYAN, saw GOP voters turn against them, which in turn put pressure on rank-and-file GOP members. That, however, isn’t happening right now.

In fact, McCarthy’s approval rating has jumped by 10 points among Republicans since he took the gavel, hovering at 66%, according to a recent YouGov/Economist poll. Anecdotally speaking, even Biggs — who hails from a district DONALD TRUMP carried by 15 points in 2020 — told Playbook that his constituents think McCarthy’s doing “fairly well” and are “not really focusing on McCarthy’s speakership.”


The House Rules Committee hearing and vote should be an interesting one. If it gets through there, it will eventually come up before a full vote of the House on Wednesday. The real fight definitely appears to be in the House, as a Democratic advantage in the Senate – and some aspects of the bill that seem to be a bone tossed to Joe Manchin – means that it more than likely will pass through that chamber quickly and ahead of the June 5 deadline.


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