Kevin McCarthy faces the press
Kevin McCarthy, one of the least powerful Speakers in modern history, faces the press (U.S. House of Representatives photo)

The Repub­li­can-con­trolled Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives tonight vot­ed some­what along the inverse of par­ty lines to pass a deal that once again rais­es the nation’s debt ceil­ing, but at a steep cost to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, in order to sat­is­fy the demands of mil­i­tant right wing Repub­li­cans who love spend­ing big bucks on the mil­i­tary but oppose invest­ing in the coun­try’s social contract.

By a vote of 314–117, the House adopt­ed the so-called Fis­cal Respon­si­bil­i­ty Act of 2023, which “increas­es the fed­er­al debt lim­it, estab­lish­es new dis­cre­tionary spend­ing lim­its, rescinds unob­lig­at­ed funds, and expands work require­ments for fed­er­al pro­grams,” as sum­ma­rized by Con­gress’ offi­cial leg­isla­tive website.

Although the bill is chock full of con­ces­sions to Repub­li­cans, it was Democ­rats who ulti­mate­ly put up most of the votes to pass it. 165 Democ­rats vot­ed yea on final pas­sage, while 46 vot­ed nay. 149 Repub­li­cans vot­ed yea and 71 vot­ed nay. Two Democ­rats did not vote; two Repub­li­cans also did not vote.

In the Pacif­ic North­west, the roll call was as follows:

Vot­ing Yea to pass the bill: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Marie Glue­senkamp Perez, Derek Kilmer, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land (WA), Earl Blu­me­nauer and Andrea Sali­nas (OR), Mary Pel­to­la (AK); Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers (WA), Cliff Bentz, Lori Chavez-DeRe­mer (OR), Mike Simp­son (ID)

Vot­ing Nay to defeat the bill: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Prami­la Jaya­pal (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Val Hoyle (OR); Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher (ID), Matt Rosendale, Ryan Zinke (MT)

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden praised the House­’s vote.

“Tonight, the House took a crit­i­cal step for­ward to pre­vent a first-ever default and pro­tect our country’s hard-earned and his­toric eco­nom­ic recov­ery. This bud­get agree­ment is a bipar­ti­san com­pro­mise. Nei­ther side got every­thing it want­ed. That’s the respon­si­bil­i­ty of gov­ern­ing. I want to thank Speak­er McCarthy and his team for nego­ti­at­ing in good faith, as well as Leader Jef­fries for his leadership.”

“This agree­ment is good news for the Amer­i­can peo­ple and the Amer­i­can econ­o­my,” Biden added. “It pro­tects key pri­or­i­ties and accom­plish­ments from the past two years, includ­ing his­toric invest­ments that are cre­at­ing good jobs across the coun­try. And, it hon­ors my com­mit­ment to safe­guard Amer­i­cans’ health care and pro­tect Social Secu­ri­ty, Medicare, and Med­ic­aid. It pro­tects crit­i­cal pro­grams that mil­lions of hard­work­ing fam­i­lies, stu­dents, and vet­er­ans count on.”

“I have been clear that the only path for­ward is a bipar­ti­san com­pro­mise that can earn the sup­port of both par­ties. This agree­ment meets that test. I urge the Sen­ate to pass it as quick­ly as pos­si­ble so that I can sign it into law, and our coun­try can con­tin­ue build­ing the strongest econ­o­my in the world.”

Kevin McCarthy like­wise took a vic­to­ry lap after the vote, though The New York Times’ Carl Hulse observed McCarthy owed the suc­cess­ful out­come to his coun­ter­part, House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leader Hakeem Jef­fries: “He man­aged to do so only with sig­nif­i­cant help from across the aisle, as Democ­rats res­cued him on a key pro­ce­dur­al vote and then pro­vid­ed the sup­port need­ed for passage.”

Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell, the Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader, backs the leg­is­la­tion, and will pro­vide votes from his cau­cus to pass it in the Sen­ate, allow­ing Major­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer to not have to wor­ry about los­ing some of his members.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley of Ore­gon announced today in a thought­ful state­ment that he’s a no, for exam­ple, and he’ll prob­a­bly be joined by oth­er pro­gres­sive sen­a­tors like Eliz­a­beth War­ren and Bernie Sanders in oppos­ing the bill.

Jaya­pal released a lengthy state­ment explain­ing why she vot­ed no. It is an excel­lent state­ment and we rec­om­mend read­ing it in its entirety:

This was a deal nego­ti­at­ed while the extreme MAGA Repub­li­cans held the Amer­i­can peo­ple hostage. It is absolute­ly unac­cept­able that they refused to com­ply with their con­sti­tu­tion­al oblig­a­tion of lift­ing the debt ceil­ing, as has been done by Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats 78 times. We appre­ci­ate the Pres­i­dent and White House nego­ti­at­ing on behalf of the peo­ple giv­en the circumstances.

I am also very grate­ful to Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leader Jef­fries for being a strong voice against MAGA extrem­ists and FOR the Amer­i­can peo­ple. I am clear that we sim­ply could not allow the coun­try to default — that is who we are as respon­si­ble Democ­rats nego­ti­at­ing with an extreme par­ty that was will­ing to take this coun­try over the cliff with a cat­a­stroph­ic default.

How­ev­er, at the same time, we must be clear that this hostage-tak­ing is absolute­ly unac­cept­able and that there will be very real con­se­quences for work­ing peo­ple and poor peo­ple who will now be forced to resume crip­pling stu­dent debt pay­ments, pre­dom­i­nant­ly Black and Brown women who will be kicked off food assis­tance because they will be forced into work­ing as they enter their senior years, and peo­ple every­where who will be forced to live with more envi­ron­men­tal injus­tice. They are all the ones being forced to pay for this hostage-tak­ing by Repub­li­cans who are now clear­ly on the record of want­i­ng to pro­tect the wealth­i­est indi­vid­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions at the expense of poor and work­ing people.

This leg­is­la­tion puts unnec­es­sary hur­dles between poor peo­ple, includ­ing old­er Amer­i­cans, and nutri­tion assistance.

It claws back more than $21 bil­lion in fund­ing meant to ensure the wealthy and cor­po­ra­tions pay their fair share in tax­es, caps any increas­es in non-defense spend­ing at a time when infla­tion has been on the rise, also effec­tive­ly low­er­ing the base­line for rais­ing non-defense spend­ing in future years, removes the President’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue the stu­dent loan pay­ment pause, and gives pol­lut­ing cor­po­ra­tions a greater role in prepar­ing their own envi­ron­men­tal reviews, allow­ing them to skew nec­es­sary data.

In Wash­ing­ton State, we may see real effects on reduc­tions of Emer­gency Relief Funds for edu­ca­tion and on the imple­men­ta­tion of new SNAP require­ments that will dis­rupt the process for SNAP recip­i­ents and cre­ate new churn in the sys­tem. As a state that has led on cli­mate change, we also know that there is a very con­cern­ing prece­dent set by the approvals of the Moun­tain Val­ley Pipeline.

While the Biden admin­is­tra­tion was able to walk back many of the extreme GOP’s worst ideas, we should nev­er have got­ten to this place. This was a man­u­fac­tured cri­sis where Repub­li­cans took our econ­o­my hostage – and it sets a very dan­ger­ous prece­dent – that Repub­li­cans can ignore the rule of law, ignore our oblig­a­tion to pay our debts, and ignore the needs of our con­stituents, all to advance their polit­i­cal priorities.

This is not the way that Con­gress should do busi­ness. This process pushed our econ­o­my to the brink of cat­a­stro­phe and could have dev­as­tat­ed work­ing fam­i­lies across this coun­try. I vot­ed no today to reg­is­ter my objec­tions in both pol­i­cy and prin­ci­ple and to ensure that peo­ple across the coun­try know we are stand­ing up for them and against these extreme MAGA Repub­li­cans. We can­not allow this to become the norm in future nego­ti­a­tions and as soon as Democ­rats retake the major­i­ty, I will con­tin­ue advo­cat­ing to give the Depart­ment of Trea­sury the abil­i­ty to raise the debt ceiling.

We strong­ly agree with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaya­pal’s com­ments and thank her for so artic­u­late­ly describ­ing the harm­ful pro­vi­sions con­tained with­in this bill.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene, who rep­re­sents NPI’s home con­gres­sion­al dis­trict, the 1st, vot­ed the oth­er way; here’s what she had to say about her vote:

The bipar­ti­san bud­get agree­ment that I sup­port­ed today will pro­tect Amer­i­can fam­i­lies and our econ­o­my from a dev­as­tat­ing default on our nation’s bills. It also will shield our vet­er­ans, seniors, law enforce­ment, and schools from the worst of the extreme House Repub­li­can demands they issued while hold­ing our econ­o­my hostage.

This deal is far from perfect.

Com­pro­mise means that no one gets every­thing they want in a nego­ti­a­tion. The worse out­come here was default.

I thank Pres­i­dent Biden and Leader Jef­fries for their work to reach this deal and pass it through the House. The Sen­ate must imme­di­ate­ly take up this leg­is­la­tion and get it to the president’s desk.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mar­i­lyn Strick­land also vot­ed yea; here’s her statement:

Tonight, I vot­ed in favor of the Fis­cal Respon­si­bil­i­ty Act to pro­tect the full faith and cred­it of the Unit­ed States and avoid a cat­a­stroph­ic default that would hurt our economy.

I vot­ed to pro­tect fam­i­lies, jobs, seniors, vet­er­ans, chil­dren and our econ­o­my from irre­versible harm and ensure that Social Secu­ri­ty, Medicare, and Med­ic­aid ben­e­fits are intact. I call on my Sen­ate col­leagues to swift­ly pass this bill and send it to Pres­i­dent Biden’s desk to ensure the U.S. econ­o­my remains strong and stable.

If the Sen­ate amends the leg­is­la­tion, it would need to return to the House for fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion. Sen­a­tor Schumer has said he would like to avoid that, which will require the rejec­tion of any amend­ments pro­posed in the Senate.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts