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.
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