President Biden and Speaker McCarthy have not held talks on the debt ceiling since their White House session in February. Next week, the House will try to increase the pressure for negotiations by considering a Republican plan to increase the ceiling.
From my long experience in DC, I know how tough it is to get Republicans to vote to increase the debt ceiling. It runs counter to one of their core principles, that the government is too big and spends too much. Nearly every increase in the debt ceiling is accomplished with a majority of Democratic votes, but this Republican proposal will not receive any Democratic support.
The divisions in the Republican House Caucus run deep, and this was on full display when it took 15 votes for Kevin McCarthy to get the majority he needed to be elected Speaker. This vote will be no different.
The basic Republican proposal is to increase the debt ceiling by $1.5T until April 1, 2024 and sweeten the deal for conservatives with massive spending cuts totaling $4.5T over 10 years. The cuts include the repeal of energy tax credits for everything from EVs to wind, as well as reductions in education and food programs. The idea is to return spending to levels established in the budget for Fiscal Year 2022, approximately $130B in cuts this year.
The Speaker faces two competing camps within the Caucus. First, there are 18 Republicans who are in Congressional districts Biden carried in 2020. These are the more moderate Republicans for whom these massive cuts will be a tough sell back home.
The second group, the core of the “Never Kevin” camp during the Speaker vote, are arch-conservatives for whom any increase in the debt ceiling is a tough vote. As one conservative Republican said, “My constituents didn’t send me here to raise the debt ceiling.”
McCarthy’s plan is to have the House Republicans put something on the table in order to force the President to the negotiating table. Job one for McCarthy is to get the bill passed, and with only a five-seat majority that will be no easy task – possible, but not easy.