Politics

House GOP leaves Washington with a victory over debt – but not quite a breakthrough

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While Republicans thought the plan they passed Wednesday would force Biden to the table, the White House and most congressional Democrats rejected it and made it clear they would not agree to GOP demands. Instead, both sides retreated further to their corners, with each party planning to spend the next few days talking almost entirely to their respective core voters.

“I think we in the House should send a message about this,” the rep said. Chipie Roy (R-Texas) said, warning that Democrats would “misrepresent” their bill: “We must be offended by the message.”

As for next steps, Roy said, “The ball is in the president’s court and the Senate court.”

Roy is far from the only one at the GOP conference to say the problem is out of their hands, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats. Most Republican lawmakers insist they care little for Wall Street’s increasingly restless nerves as a dysfunctional Congress nears this summer’s debt deadline.

“Every day he refuses to negotiate, he puts the American economy at risk,” the representative said. Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.) said. “The next move is on Biden.”

Top Democrats have revealed little about their next steps. While the Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer (DN.Y.) called on Republicans to work with him on a clean debt plan, it’s unclear if his caucus would even unite to vote for him. Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), specifically, instructed Biden to meet with McCarthy.

And at least some party members are getting nervous: “We should all be getting anxious,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) said.

Next week’s focus will be on the Senate, which will return to Washington in the face of pressure from House Republicans — and possibly the Treasury Department. Officials are expected in the coming days to notify the public of an “X date,” before which Congress must pass a lifting of the debt ceiling to avoid default.

“I think once we have that date with clarity … then we will know with some urgency our timeline to deal with this challenge,” the House Minority Leader said. Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) told reporters on Friday, adding, “Understand that this is a manufactured crisis that extreme MAGA Republicans are imposing on the American people.”

In the meantime, Democrats plan to spend their time turning the GOP’s debt plan into campaign fodder, betting that further attacks on Republican plans to cut spending on programs like food stamps and Medicaid will hurt in the swing districts they are to overthrow next November.

Many Republicans who currently hold those battleground seats, however, say they are not sweating their yes votes.

representing Nick La Lota (RN.Y.), who flipped a purple seat on Long Island last fall, said he recently held a conference call with more than 13,000 callers where he asked each person to say whether they supported his Debt Stance: Raise the limit, but with some federal spending cuts, including Covid relief.

“Three against one, [constituents] agreed with my position,” LaLota said Friday.

Since House Republicans passed their plan on Wednesday, both sides have resorted to accusations in an attempt to shift blame if negotiations deteriorate.

Still, the GOP bill remains a win for McCarthy, who faced a steep climb as he struck a deal between his party’s disparate wings with only a handful of votes to spare. By working closely with conservatives to craft a plan packed with right-flank priorities, the speaker has achieved near-total unity in his attempt to launch negotiations with Biden.

Even so, White House officials have stressed in conversations with Democratic congressional leaders the importance of staying aligned with Biden’s no-deal stance. The president’s team is clearly betting they still hold the strongest hand in the debt ceiling impasse; the White House responded to the House GOP bill by releasing a slew of statements and analysis detailing the damage it would cause to the economy and popular programs.

While Biden administration officials have explored a variety of potential alternative options to avoid default, there is skepticism about the feasibility of any of them — and none are being considered. as preferable to Congress simply voting to raise the debt ceiling.

The House Republican ground that would raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion, or until March of next year — whichever comes first — would stage another fight with the White House next year. In particular, Republicans are most proud of the bill’s cuts to federal spending, including $130 billion in the coming fiscal year, which would effectively bring total discretionary spending to roughly the same level as ‘two years ago.

But the task is far from done, and McCarthy could still be pressured by his own party.

Some members of the conservative Freedom Caucus group argue the California Republican should refuse to negotiate at all as Democrats decide against them — a stance other Republicans in the conference view as irrational.

“I don’t do red lines because there might be a different price I might want for something, right? Put a border ticket on that, change the duration and times. There’s always a way to come up with something that will actually be good for the country,” Roy said of potentially negotiable items.

“Go ahead, Mr. President,” he added. “Go ahead, Senator Schumer.”

Adam Cancryn and Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

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