U.S. Debt Ceiling Bill Passes House With Broad Bipartisan Support

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A divided U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to suspend the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling on Wednesday, with majority support from Democrats and Republicans to overcome opposition led by hardline conservatives and avoid a catastrophic default. The Republican-controlled House voted 314-117 to send the legislation to the Senate, which must enact it and get it to President Joe Biden’s desk before a Monday deadline. The compromise forged by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Biden would extend the government’s borrowing authority while imposing restraints on federal spending. In addition, the measure would allow for a biannual budget agreement and cut federal spending by an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The measure includes a broad set of measures to reduce the deficit, including new work requirements for food stamp recipients, a clawback of some IRS enforcement and unspent coronavirus relief funding, and a freeze on student loan repayments. It also calls for a slower rate of increase in federal spending than inflation and limits the amount of growth in nondefense spending through 2025. The bill passed after nearly a month of political warfare and weeks of heated negotiations. But it remained the subject of intense criticism from some progressive lawmakers, who argued that the new work requirements and spending cuts insulted voters who elected them.

It needed to be clarified whether the measure would face a hostile reception in the Senate. Democratic and Republican leaders in the upper chamber of Congress backed the deal, with the Democratic leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, promising to move quickly to take up the bill once it leaves the House. The top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said he would support the legislation if it is sent to his chamber.

Biden and the Democratic leadership spent much of the Memorial Day holiday lobbying members to back the measure, with the Democratic leaders urging their members to break ranks and vote for it. At one point, 51 centrist and veteran Democrats rushed to the well of the House for a procedural vote usually passed along party lines. Then, in a dramatic scene, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries raised a green voting card, signaling that it was time to vote for the legislation to pass.

The move threw the deal into doubt as several conservative lawmakers broke ranks to oppose it, leaving just five Republicans on the sidelines. A failure to raise the debt limit by Monday would cause Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the country’s credit rating, and it could derail the economy and possibly send the nation into a recession. Many economists agree that the U.S. must avoid a default to preserve its economic standing and prevent a crisis in global financial markets. The last time the country came close to defaulting, in 2011, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the nation’s credit rating by two notches, triggering turmoil in international financial markets.

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