Democrats put potential headache of passing debt ceiling rule on McCarthy

House Democratic leaders warned Wednesday that it would be up to Republicans to pass the rule governing the debt ceiling increase, pushing Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to rally enough Republican support for the measure procedure for a final vote on legislation. to avoid a fault.

“As far as the rule goes, it’s very simple: the majority is responsible for passing the rule,” Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the Democratic whip, told reporters on Capitol Hill hours later. only before the vote on the rule.

The rule has emerged as a potential stumbling block in the race to push through the bipartisan debt ceiling package – brokered between McCarthy and President Biden – by June 5 and avoid the government’s first-ever default.

Traditionally, the minority party in the House has almost always voted against the rules that set the parameters for debate surrounding indoor votes on bills, even if the minority party supports the underlying legislation.

This convention could prove to be a headache for McCarthy, as a number of conservative opponents of the debt ceiling package are also debating whether to vote against the rule as well, which could prove – at least temporarily – being the most effective strategy to block the bill.

With a wafer-thin majority in the House, McCarthy has little room for error: He can only lose five Republicans and still pass the rule if the Democrats hold their line in opposition, as they pledge to do. .

“As Katherine has indicated, the majority is responsible for ensuring the rule is passed,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) said Wednesday as he stood alongside Clark .

Yet Jeffries and his leadership team are also hailing the debt ceiling bill as a victory for Biden and Democrats in the face of Republican “hostage” demands for deep spending cuts. And they swear not to let the country default.

“We will not allow a default to occur,” Jeffries said.

The remark raises the possibility that Democrats will initially withhold their votes on the rule, to underscore what could be a potentially embarrassing moment for McCarthy if the rule fails, and then change their votes to help pass the rule in an effort to prevent a economy- click by default.

The vote on the rule is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, with the vote on the final passage scheduled for around 8:30 p.m. Those times could be pushed back if McCarthy struggles to push through the rule in the first round.

Passage of the final bill appears to be more certain, as lawmakers from both parties lined up to back the measure, despite declared opposition from far-left Democrats and hardline conservatives.

Jeffries, who had warned that tougher work requirements for safety net programs were a ‘non-starter’ in any final deal, changed his position on Wednesday to announce his support for the package, noting that the legislation also relaxes the work requirements for certain other populations, thus broadening eligibility. for food stamps and other government programs.

It’s unclear how many Democrats will be needed to help majority Republicans push the package through the House.

“We haven’t gotten the specific number across the aisle yet,” Jeffries said.

But he promises to provide at least 70 Democrats — and the number is likely to be much higher as Democrats come under increased pressure to show their support for Biden, whose approval rating is below 40% amid his run for office. keep the White House in next year’s election. .

Still, Jeffries suggested Democrats would withhold that support until McCarthy can get two-thirds of his conference — or 148 votes — at which time Democrats send the bill to the finish line.

“We continue to maintain that House Republicans must deliver on their commitment to produce 150 votes for the resolution they themselves negotiated,” Jeffries said. “And when that happens, Democrats will make sure there is no default.”

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