Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House, predicted a debt ceiling bill would “overwhelmingly” clear a vote in the lower chamber of Congress as he raced to secure backing for the bipartisan deal.
The vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday will mark a crucial moment for McCarthy as he stares down a rebellion from members of his own party and tries to defy critics who have questioned whether he can push through legislation to avert a damaging default.
“We’ll get it done overwhelmingly,” McCarthy said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday morning. “To govern is not easy. But I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.”
The Speaker’s prediction came after he pitched the deal in an hours-long closed-door meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night.
McCarthy announced at the weekend that he had struck an agreement with Joe Biden’s White House to suspend the debt ceiling until after next year’s presidential election. The deal caps federal spending for the next two years, speeds up the permitting process for big energy projects, cuts funding for the Internal Revenue Service and introduces new requirements for food stamps and other social safety net programmes.
The deal needs to pass both chambers of Congress if it is to be signed into law before the Treasury runs out of money. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen has warned the government would run out of money and be unable to pay its obligations on June 5 if the debt ceiling is not raised.
The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle late on Tuesday, when the powerful House rules committee rubber-stamped the measure, sending it to the full House for consideration. The entire chamber is expected to vote on the bill on Wednesday evening.
“God willing, by the time I land, Congress will have acted, the House will have acted and we’ll be one step closer,” Biden said at the White House on Wednesday as he prepared to fly to Colorado, where he is expected to arrive this evening.
McCarthy and the White House have been upbeat about the likelihood of the bill passing, even as critics in both parties have come out against the measure.
On the right, the hardline Freedom Caucus of House Republicans have attacked the deal for not imposing steeper spending cuts. On the left, progressive Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal, have lambasted Biden for capitulating to Republican demands.
Because Republicans control the House by a razor-thin margin, and more than two dozen Republicans have already said they would vote against the bill, McCarthy will be counting on the support of Democrats to get the bill over the line.
The Speaker’s whip count was bolstered earlier in the week when the leaders of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of nearly 100 centrist Democrats, said they were in favour of the agreement.
On Wednesday morning, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 64 centrist lawmakers, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, said they would also get behind the bill.
Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the House, said on Wednesday morning that he would support the bill “without hesitation, reservation or trepidation”, adding: “Not because it’s perfect. But in divided government, we, of course, cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”