Washington: House Republicans narrowly passed sweeping legislation Wednesday that would raise the government’s legal debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion in exchange for steep spending restrictions, a tactical victory for Speaker Kevin McCarthy as he challenges President Joe Biden to negotiate and prevent a catastrophic federal default this summer.
Biden has threatened to veto the Republican package, which has almost no chance of passing the Democratic Senate anyway, and the president has so far refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling which the White House insists must be lifted with no strings to ensure America pays its bills.
But McCarthy’s ability to swiftly unite his slim majority and bring the measure to passage over opposition from Democrats and even holdouts in his own party gives currency to the Republican speaker’s strategy to use the vote as an opening bid forcing Biden into talks. The two men could hardly be further apart on how to resolve the issue.
The bill passed by a razor-thin 217-215 margin.
“We’ve done our job,” McCarthy said at the U.S. Capitol after the vote.
“The president can no longer ignore by not negotiating,” he said. ”Now he should sit down and negotiate.”
As the House debated the measure, Biden on Wednesday indicated he was willing to open the door to talks with McCarthy, but not on preventing a first-ever U.S. default that would shake America’s economy and beyond.
“Happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended,” Biden said. “That’s not negotiable.”
Passage of the sprawling 320-page package in the House is only the start of what is expected to become a weeks long political slog as the president and Congress try to work out a compromise that would allow the nation’s debt, now at $31 trillion, to be lifted to allow further borrowing and stave off a fiscal crisis.