Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his top representatives say they will actively prepare a bill to limit part of the national debt if President Joe Biden continues to draw a firm line against talks with House Republicans to avoid the nation’s first-ever default.
It would be dangerous for anyone to move. The GOP can only afford to lose four votes on any party plan, and thorny fiscal issues have long divided its party. House passage of the party’s bill would be difficult in the Democratic-led Senate where 60 votes would be needed to advance such a package.
But Republican leaders believe their weeks of internal talks with various ideological factions — the GOP’s five-member family — could produce a bill that would pass the House along party lines. And if the White House won’t negotiate, they think they can pressure the Senate and Biden into passing a bill that would raise the debt ceiling and include budget cuts.
“I’m confident we can get there if we need to,” Louisiana Rep. Garrett Graves, whom McCarthy selected for GOP internal talks, said only about the Republican bill.
Speaking with CNN and a small group of reporters, Graves said the GOP proposal to move is “absolutely an option on the table.”
McCarthy was more of a bully.
“Yes,” McCarthy said when asked if he believed Republicans would have the votes to approve his debt plan.
“In fact, I think the market is excited about one being here,” McCarthy told reporters on Thursday.
Republicans say their first choice is to negotiate a deal with the White House.
“Sir. President, I’m ready at any moment. I’ll come tonight,” McCarthy said, adding that he would make lunch or “soft food if that’s what he wants.”
But Biden called on the House GOP to attach the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling without any conditions or strings attached to avoid the prospect of a fiscal disaster, pointing to Congress approving a debt limit suspension three times under then-President Donald Trump. But this time, House Republicans say debt relief isn’t just a walk-off, given the debt mountain the country faces.
“I think one thing is certain: We’re not going to make the world debt ceiling,” Graves said, because this puts the trajectory with the iceberg.
What exactly is in the GOP’s plan — and how much debt ceiling growth they seek — remains a point of internal debate. But they say they identified nearly $4 trillion in budget cuts and savings, some of which were included in the letter that McCarthy sent to Biden earlier in the week.
In that letter, McCarthy identified various areas of cutting, something Gravia says means the consensus of opinion points of ideological contribution of parties.
Among the ideas: Reversing domestic funding to 2022 levels that would not affect the Pentagon but could cut health care, education, agriculture, transportation and a range of other federal programs. Other ideas proposed by McCarthy: Clawing back unspent money for the covid 19 program, adding work requirements to certain social benefits such as food stamps, as well as accelerating the process of allowing energy projects and new immigration measures.
“The speaker’s letter was not sitting in a vacuum,” Graves said. “The speaker’s letter reflects weeks of dialogue. … our input has been translated into that letter.
It is unclear exactly when Republicans can act unilaterally. Graves, who briefed reporters with conservative Reps. Scott Perry and Chip Roy along with moderate members such as Rep. Dusty Johnson from South Dakota and Rep. Bryan Steil, said his timing depends on whether the development talks with the White House. And it’s not entirely clear when a default could happen — potentially sometime between June and September if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.
“The president is a bargain,” Roy said. “This is going to happen. It’s just a matter of time.”