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GOP mutiny not enough to sink House passage of debt limit compromise

Democrats reached across the aisle to help give the measure a push through the lower chamber just days before a projected default.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Despite an effort from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s one-time allies to scuttle his debt ceiling deal with the White House, the lower chamber of Congress Wednesday night voted to pass the short-term spending patch aimed at averting a first-ever national default.

The measure, which suspends the government’s self-imposed debt limit for a period of two years while implementing a litany of federal spending caps, cleared the House on a bipartisan 314-117 vote.

The bill’s passage is a victory for Speaker McCarthy, who had in recent days faced sharp criticism from some of his more radical colleagues, who claim that his deal with the White House sacrificed a number of GOP positions and effectively hands the Biden administration a political win.

That opposition materialized Wednesday night as 71 House Republicans broke with their colleagues and voted against the debt ceiling compromise. Despite that, the measure burst through the lower chamber with 149 Republicans voting in favor, augmented by an additional 165 Democratic votes.

Before the vote, Speaker McCarthy said on the House floor that Republicans had effectively leveraged their thin majority in the lower chamber.

“We used the power we had to force the president to negotiate,” McCarthy said. “We produced a bill that, in divided government, takes a step towards smaller government, less regulation, more economic growth and more take-home pay [for Americans].”

Strong Republican support for the McCarthy-Biden compromise could shore up support for the speaker days after members of his party’s rightmost reaches criticized his leadership.

The House Freedom Caucus, Republicans’ ultra-right voting bloc, urged their Republican colleagues this week to vote against the measure after an ill-fated attempt at getting McCarthy to double down in negotiations with the White House.

Some members of the Freedom Caucus, which played an instrumental role in McCarthy’s ascension to the speakership, had begun to suggest he could be removed as speaker. North Carolina Congressman Dan Bishop floated the idea Tuesday, although he refused to say whether he would lead such action. McCarthy had dismissed the notion, telling reporters Wednesday that he did not feel that his position as party leader was under threat.

Meanwhile, the debt compromise bill is on its way to the Senate, where it could face an equally rocky path to passage — some of the upper chamber’s Republican minority including Utah Senator Mike Lee and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul have signaled that they would oppose the measure.

If both houses manage to clear the debt ceiling patch and it is signed by President Biden, Washington will have avoided crisis by a hair. The Treasury Department has predicted that the government could run out of the money it needs to pay down its debts as soon as June 5.

Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling dozens of times. Failing to do so would predicate severe economic consequences and would damage U.S. credibility worldwide.

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Categories / Economy, Government, National, Politics

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