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Biden, McCarthy Seek Support for Deal  05/31 06:18

   Hard-fought to the end, the debt ceiling and budget cuts package is heading 
toward a crucial U.S. House vote as President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin 
McCarthy assemble a coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans to push it 
to passage over fierce blowback from conservatives and some progressive dissent.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hard-fought to the end, the debt ceiling and budget cuts 
package is heading toward a crucial U.S. House vote as President Joe Biden and 
Speaker Kevin McCarthy assemble a coalition of centrist Democrats and 
Republicans to push it to passage over fierce blowback from conservatives and 
some progressive dissent.

   Biden is sending top White House officials to meet early Wednesday at the 
Capitol to shore up support ahead of voting. McCarthy is working furiously to 
sell skeptical fellow Republicans, even fending off challenges to his 
leadership, in the rush to avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default.

   Despite deep disappointment from right-flank Republicans that the compromise 
falls short of the spending cuts they demanded, McCarthy insisted he would have 
the votes needed to ensure approval.

   "We're going to pass the bill," McCarthy said as he exited a lengthy Tuesday 
night meeting at the Capitol.

   Quick approval by the House and later in the week the Senate would ensure 
government checks will continue to go out to Social Security recipients, 
veterans and others and would prevent financial upheaval at home and abroad. 
Next Monday is when the Treasury has said the U.S. would run short of money to 
pay its debts, risking an economically dangerous default.

   The package leaves few lawmakers fully satisfied, but Biden and McCarthy are 
counting on pulling majority support from the political center, a rarity in 
divided Washington, testing the leadership of the Democratic president and the 
Republican speaker.

   Overall, the 99-page bill restricts spending for the next two years, 
suspends the debt ceiling into January 2025 and changes policies, including new 
work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid and greenlighting an 
Appalachian natural gas line that many Democrats oppose.

   For more than two hours late Tuesday as aides wheeled in pizza at the 
Capitol, McCarthy walked Republicans through the details, fielded questions and 
encouraged them not to lose sight of the bill's budget savings.

   The speaker faced a sometimes tough crowd. Leaders of the hard-right House 
Freedom Caucus spent the day lambasting the compromise as falling well short of 
the spending cuts they demand, and they vowed to try to halt passage by 

   "This deal fails, fails completely," Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman 
of the Freedom Caucus, said earlier in the day, flanked by others outside the 
Capitol. "We will do everything in our power to stop it."

   A much larger conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, declined 
to take a position. Even rank-and-file centrist conservatives were unsure, 
leaving McCarthy desperately hunting for votes.

   Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said after the "healthy debate" late into the night 
she was still a no.

   Ominously, the conservatives warned of potentially trying to oust McCarthy 
over the compromise.

   "There's going to be a reckoning," said Rep. Chip Roy of Texas.

   Biden was speaking directly to lawmakers, making more than 100 one-on-one 
calls, the White House said.

   The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restrictions 
in the package would reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top 
goal for the Republicans trying to curb the debt load.

   McCarthy told lawmakers that number was higher if the two-year spending caps 
were extended, which is no guarantee.

   But in a surprise that could further erode Republican support, the GOP's 
drive to impose work requirements on older Americans receiving food stamps ends 
up boosting spending by $2.1 billion over the time period. That's because the 
final deal exempted veterans and homeless people, expanding the food stamp 
rolls by 78,000 people monthly, the CBO said.

   House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to turn 
out votes from some two-thirds of the Republican majority, a high bar the 
speaker may not be able to reach. In the 435-member House, 218 votes are needed 
for passage.

   Still, Jeffries said the Democrats would do their part to avoid failure.

   "It is my expectation that House Republicans would keep their promise and 
deliver at least 150 votes as it relates to an agreement that they themselves 
negotiated," Jeffries said. "Democrats will make sure that the country does not 

   Liberal Democrats decried the new work requirements for older Americans, 
those age 50-54, in the food aid program. And some Democratic lawmakers were 
leading an effort to remove the surprise provision for the Mountain Valley 
Pipeline natural gas project. The energy development is important to Sen. Joe 
Manchin, D-W.Va., but many others oppose it as unhelpful in fighting climate 

   The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul 
Grijalva of Arizona, said including the pipeline provision was "disturbing and 
profoundly disappointing."

   Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive 
Caucus, had this warning for McCarthy: "He got us here, and it's on him to 
deliver the votes."

   Wall Street was taking a wait-and-see approach. Stock prices were mixed in 
Tuesday's trading. U.S. markets had been closed when the deal was struck over 
the weekend.

   The House aims to hold procedural votes Wednesday afternoon with final 
action expected in the evening. It would then send the bill to the Senate, 
where Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader 
McConnell are working for passage by week's end.

   Schumer called the bill a "sensible compromise." McConnell said McCarthy 
"deserves our thanks."

   Senators, who have remained largely on the sidelines during much of the 
negotiations between the president and the House speaker, began inserting 
themselves more forcefully into the debate.

   Some senators are insisting on amendments to reshape the package from both 
the left and the right flanks. But making any changes to the package at this 
stage seemed unlikely with so little time to spare before Monday's deadline.

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