President Biden, Speaker McCarthy debt limit trashed by left and right

President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s deal to hike the debt limit until after the 2024 elections has Republicans and Democrats up in arms. 

Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus oppose the agreement, saying it doesn’t slash spending enough. Progressive Democrats, meanwhile, say the deal’s welfare work requirements are too drastic. 

“It doesn’t get everything that everybody wanted, but that’s how it’s like in a divided government,” said Mr. McCarthy, California Republican. “That’s where we end up. I think it’s a very positive bill.”

The agreement would raise the current $31.4 trillion debt limit until after the 2024 presidential election. It would claw back more than $60 billion in unspent coronavirus relief and cut $10 billion from the IRS. 

Domestic spending would be kept flat for the upcoming fiscal year, while defense spending is set to grow by more than $26 billion. After this year, the growth of federal spending would be capped at 1% through 2025.

House Republicans say the growth of federal spending is actually capped for six years, but the deal’s spending targets are not enforceable after 2025. 

SEE ALSO: McCarthy sells debt limit deal as conservatives fume: ‘We finally were able to cut spending’

“There’s nothing you can do that binds the next Congress,” said Rep. Garret Graves, Louisiana Republican.

Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Biden have further agreed to streamline the federal permitting process for new energy projects. The deal includes a pay-as-you-go provision requiring Mr. Biden to offset any rules or regulations that increase federal spending. 

The agreement would expand work requirements for recipients of food stamps and direct cash payments. Able-bodied, childless recipients of both programs under the age of 54 would be required to work at least 20 hours per week to keep their benefits. The work requirements will expire in 2030.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, described the work requirements as “terrible policy.” 

“Work requirements are bad policy. They don’t reduce spending, they create administrative burdens, and they simply don’t work,” said Mrs. Jayapal, Washington Democrat. “The fact that this is a GOP priority is cruel, and every American should know what they’re trying to do to poor and working families.”

Under the deal, childless food stamps recipients would be subject to new time restrictions for how long they can be on the program. The deal does expand access to food stamps for veterans and the homeless. 

SEE ALSO: A ‘win for the entire country,’ Republicans tout energy-permit rules in debt limit deal

It represents a compromise for Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Biden. House Republicans initially had sought a $130 billion cut to non-defense spending this year and a decade’s worth of spending caps. 

Mr. McCarthy also had sought to cancel Mr. Biden’s student loan forgiveness program and rescind more than $200 billion in green energy tax credits passed by Democrats last year. Both demands were sidelined amid opposition from the White House.

“The agreement protects my and congressional Democrats’ key priorities and legislative accomplishments,” Mr. Biden said.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus say that’s the exact problem. 

“Our base didn’t volunteer, door knock and fight so hard to get us the majority for this kind of compromise deal with Joe Biden,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert, Colorado Republican. “Our voters deserve better than this. We work for them. You can count me as a no on this deal.” 

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. McCarthy pushed back on the criticism. 

“Right now the Democrats are very upset,” he said. “There’s nothing in the bill for them. There’s not one thing in the bill for Democrats.”

Mr. McCarthy said that “more than 95%” of the House Republican Conference is excited about the deal. The claim was heavily disputed by conservative hardliners. 

“RINOs congratulating McCarthy for getting almost zippo in exchange for [a] $4 trillion debt ceiling hike was enough to make you [sick],” said Rep. Dan Bishop, North Carolina Republican. 

Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said conservative opposition would only swell as lawmakers examine the deal. Mr. McCarthy has pledged that the legislation will be public for 72 hours before a vote is cast in the House. 

“They haven’t been educated yet on what a turd sandwich this deal is,” said Mr. Roy, Texas Republican. “They will be.” 

Opposition from the Freedom Caucus could prove insurmountable. Given the narrow Republican majority in the House, Mr. McCarthy can lose only four GOP lawmakers on any single vote before having to rely on Democrats. 

Mr. McCarthy said he is confident the majority of House Republicans would support the deal. He also predicted that most House Democrats would follow Mr. Biden’s calls to back the agreement. 

At least one moderate Democrat is publicly unsold on the package, however. Rep. Jim Himes said on “Fox News Sunday” that the whole agreement resulted from “a corrupt enterprise.” 

“I have not made up my mind,” said Mr. Himes, Connecticut Democrat. “Not a bill that will make any Democrats happy, but it is a small enough bill that in the service of actually not destroying the economy this week, may get Democratic votes.” 

The deal failing in the House is not the only danger facing Mr. McCarthy. 

The Freedom Caucus nearly tanked Mr. McCarthy’s speakership bid this year. In exchange for allowing Mr. McCarthy’s ascension, conservatives pushed through a rules package that decentralized the power of congressional leadership.

The crux of the overhaul rests on a provision letting any lawmaker force a vote on retaining the speaker. Conservative opposition to the debt limit deal has raised questions about whether Mr. McCarthy will be ousted over it. 

Mr. McCarthy, for his part, said he isn’t worried about the prospect.

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