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Republicans Are Threatening to Oust McCarthy as Speaker Over Debt Ceiling Deal

If Democrats were uniformly in opposition, the vote would fail with the number of Republicans against the package.

The U.S. Capitol building is seen from the base of the Washington Monument as the sun rises in Washington, D.C., on May 28, 2023.

As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) scrambles to win the support of far right members of the Republican caucus for his debt ceiling deal, it is becoming increasingly clear that McCarthy may have to rely on support of Democrats to pass the package.

Roughly 20 House Republicans have announced their opposition to the bill since it was released over the weekend, with more opposition emerging from far right lawmakers, including Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colorado), who also held up McCarthy’s speakership bid earlier this year. The number of House Republicans opposed to the deal exceeds the party’s nine-seat majority and the only four votes that McCarthy can afford to lose in a party line vote.

Some far right House Republicans are so opposed to the bill that several members are threatening to oust McCarthy from the speakership over the bill.

In other words, if all House Democrats voted in opposition, the bill would fail due to the current number of Republicans who oppose the package negotiated with the White House. If not for the likely support of a significant portion of the Democratic caucus, the deal would fail, the U.S. would likely default on its loans, and the economy would be thrown into major instability, all due in large part to McCarthy’s hostage-taking negotiation tactics over the past months.

McCarthy’s need for Democratic support to pass the bill is ironic considering that the speaker has spent much of the negotiations and his speakership so far trying to please the most extremist parts of his caucus only to fail to meet their ever-evolving standards.

To be clear, the deal is still a gift for Republicans, who have successfully forced the White House to agree to cuts that likely would have been unacceptable to a more progressive party. In sharp contrast to Democrats’ 31-word bill to pass a “clean” debt ceiling raise, the 99-page deal contains a number of watered down but still punishing cuts that McCarthy and the Republican caucus demanded in negotiations.

It contains huge cuts to new Internal Revenue Service funding and non-defense discretionary funds, claws back COVID funding, places stricter work requirements on SNAP, and places a prohibition on current and future student debt payment pauses. The deal also hands concessions to the fossil fuel industry, greenlighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a favorite of conservative Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-West Virginia) — and weakening project permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act in favor of industry.

Democrats are left with little choice, however, with the Treasury Department issuing a deadline of June 1, this Thursday, to raise the debt ceiling. They either vote for the deal — the first and only substantial one struck between McCarthy and the White House in the months of the debt ceiling showdown — or risk economic disaster, as Biden has been opposed to using other methods to circumvent Republicans.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) has said that he expects most of the Democratic caucus to support it, though many progressives in the caucus have yet to announce whether or not they are supporting the deal.

Progressives have been speaking out against passing anything other than a “clean” raising of the debt ceiling, advocating for Biden to unilaterally raise the debt limit under the 14th Amendment. However, even if a handful of progressives voted against the deal, it would not be enough to tank the bill.

Support for the bill in the Senate is also up in the air. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has voiced his opposition to the bill, signaling that he may hold up the bill past the day that economists predict the U.S. will default on its loans. “Back to the drawing board — this time without the capitulation,” Lee wrote on Monday on Twitter. “The House Rules Committee should reject this deal.” However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has publicly backed the bill.

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