The Home of Representatives passes the invoice and sends it to the Senate

US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) departs his office at the US Capitol on May 30, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A bill to raise the debt ceiling and limit government spending was passed by a large majority late Wednesday in the House of Representatives and advanced to the Senate just days before the standard US deadline on Monday.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act passed by a vote of 314-117 with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

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It was a dramatic conclusion to weeks of tense negotiations between the White House and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

That drama now shifts to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where leaders on both sides want it passed within 48 hours.

“Neither side got everything they wanted. That’s the government’s responsibility,” President Joe Biden said in a statement immediately after the vote. Biden thanked McCarthy for “the good faith negotiations” and urged the Senate to pass the bill.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said federal funds could dry up in the coming days if lawmakers don’t raise the borrowing limit before next week.

Failure to do so would anger global financial markets, trigger US job losses and jeopardize vital government benefits for millions of Americans. To avert what Yellen called a potential “disaster,” congressional leaders must win support for the bill in both chambers of a divided Congress.

A SNAP twist

Complicating matters was the surprise finding of the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, which released its assessment of the bill’s impact on federal debt and deficits late Tuesday.

The CBO noted that the new labor requirements of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) bill would not save money over a 10-year period, contrary to the stated intention of Republicans, but would actually cost money.

To get the White House to approve new job requirements for able-bodied, childless adults, Republicans agreed to introduce new exemptions to work requirements for high-risk groups like veterans and the homeless.

If these exemptions go into effect concurrently with the new work requirements, rather than displacing people from food stamps for not meeting the work requirements, the CBO says the net effect of the bill will be to register an additional 78,000 a month in the program from the exempt categories, like veterans.

Republican Party leaders fought back, claiming in a hastily arranged conference call that the CBO had miscounted people who were already off duty.

But Republican opponents of the bill were quick to capitalize on the CBO’s finding, arguing that the bill betrayed its own conservative principles.

“You can’t make this up…Disastrous Biden-McCarthy deal expands welfare,” Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., tweeted Wednesday.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act is the result of an agreement between McCarthy and Biden that essentially gives the conservatives multiple ideological political victories in exchange for their votes to raise the debt ceiling beyond next year’s presidential election into 2025.

Most importantly, the bill would avert a potentially catastrophic US default, which the Treasury Department says is likely to occur next week if Congress doesn’t take action to raise the country’s borrowing limit.

As Biden left for Colorado on Wednesday, he appeared to accept that the fate of the bill was out of his hands.

“God willing, by the time I land, Congress will have acted, the House will have acted, and we will be one step closer to avoiding a default,” he said. He was close: Just over an hour after the president landed in Colorado, the House of Representatives began voting.

This is an evolving story. Please check back for updates.

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