WASHINGTON – As they mulled over the debt ceiling and budget deal negotiated by House GOP leaders and the White House, Minnesota’s members of Congress may find things to hate in the legislation, but Republican and Democratic members of the delegation are expected to vote for it anyhow.
Since the deal was announced over the weekend, the debt ceiling and budget package was excoriated by right-wing House Republicans as doing little to cut the deficit or government spending. Meanwhile, Democratic progressives blasted its new work restrictions on recipients of food stamps and Temporary Cash Assistance to Needy Families (TANF,) a program formerly known as welfare.
Some Democrats also rebelled at the deal’s streamlining of environmental reviews for infrastructure projects. Negotiators rejected another GOP demand – the inclusion in the package of legislation sponsored by Rep. Pete Stauber, R-8th District, that would have streamlined the permitting process for mining companies.
Minnesota’s lawmakers refrained from immediate comment on the legislation when contacted on Tuesday and instead said they were still reviewing the 99-page document. But all Minnesota lawmakers present are likely to support the package when it comes for a vote on the House floor Wednesday afternoon. One Minnesota lawmaker does not plan to be in Washington, D.C., for the vote that would prevent the nation from defaulting on its debts.
Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd District, said she broke her ankle and dislocated her foot while doing some gardening at her home in Prior Lake on Monday and was advised by doctors not to fly. Craig would have voted in favor of the legislation, her spokeswoman said.
As House majority whip, Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, has been helping House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., drum up votes for the package, the other Republican members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, Stauber, Reps. Brad Finstad, R-1st District, and Michelle Fischbach, R-7th District, are likely to help Emmer out, but their offices did not respond to inquiries about the lawmakers’ positions.
“Our expectation is that House Republicans will keep their promise (to the White House) and deliver 150 votes,” said House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries to reporters Tuesday, indicating that Democrats will deliver at least the remaining needed votes and “not let the country go into default.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), which numbers 101 Democrats, said her group is taking a formal whip count to determine “whether or not the CPC will take an official position” on the debt ceiling bill. “We are in that process right now,” Jayapal said at a press conference on Tuesday. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, is deputy chair of the caucus.
On the GOP side of the aisle, several Freedom Caucus members threatened to force a vote on McCarthy’s continued House leadership through a procedure known as a “motion to vacate the chair. In January, when McCarthy sought to win the support of the right flank of his party to win the speakership, he agreed to a new rule that would allow just one member to challenge his speakership.
“We’re going to have to regroup and figure out the whole leadership arrangement again,” said Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd District, has said he and other centrist Democrats would help McCarthy keep his leadership if the speaker had demonstrated “courage” during debt limit negotiations. His office said he would not be reached on Tuesday.
The House chamber is, for now, divided 222-213 in favor of the GOP. So, unless Democrats help McCarthy out in a motion to vacate, he can only lose just four Republican votes if all 435 members are present.
The debt limit and budget package would impose some spending reductions for the next two years – avoiding the 10 years of more substantial cuts House GOP members sought. The Pentagon and veterans’ programs would be spared any cuts. Also, $80 billion provided by the Inflation Reduction Act to modernize the Internal Revenue Service and make new hires would be cut by about $1.4 billion and another $20 billion transferred to other domestic programs. The House GOP wanted all $80 billion rescinded.
In return, the legislation would raise the debt limit until January 2025, pushing another vote on the issue past the next presidential election. Now at $31 trillion, the debt limit would be raised another $4 trillion, allowing the U.S. Treasury to continue borrowing to pay the nation’s bills if revenue continues to exceed outlays, as expected.
Progressives were unable to counter GOP demands for new work requirements for people age 50 to 54 who receive food stamps and are otherwise able-bodied without dependents. But the debt limit deal will exclude veterans and homeless people from the new work requirements.
If the House approves the legislation Wednesday, the debt limit and budget bill would then go to the Senate for a vote.
Minnesota’s two senators are likely to support the bill.
“First and foremost, the United States cannot default on our debt — the economic consequences on working families would be catastrophic,” said Sen. Tina Smith. “I’m glad that, despite extremist Republicans’ best efforts to hold our economy hostage, President Biden was able to negotiate a bipartisan compromise.”
Smith said she is “carefully reviewing the details of the agreement” but is “fully prepared to work closely with my colleagues to avoid default.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Amy Klobuchar in an interview with WCCO said the deal had “very positive elements” and kept Medicare and Social Security intact, as well as saving the nation from a default that would be disastrous for the U.S. economy.