Some Senate Republicans are reportedly lamenting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to kick the debt ceiling debate to an election year.
A potential standoff between parties could impact the stock market close to Election Day and create political ammo for Democrats, as Republican seek to retake the upper chamber in 2024.
“My complaint is that we delay these things all the time. Can we get out of moving from crisis to crisis?” one Republican senator told The Hill. “I’m for striking a deal and changing the spending, but can we not do it every year?”
McCarthy, R-Calif., has vowed a rollback to fiscal 2022 levels, but Senate Republicans are hesitant to do so if that means capping or cutting defense spending.
In a move to shield the Department of Defense from any steep cuts, the current plan devised by House Republican leadership is reportedly projected to slash non-defense discretionary spending programs by 22%. But the unnamed GOP senator warned The Hill even that move would be “problematic for the House and the Senate and the White House.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, April 17, 2023. McCarthy is trying to pass a package that would raise the nation’s debt limit by $1.5 trillion. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
“I think the debt limit provides us an opportunity to talk about our fiscal well-being, but I don’t want to see us be put in a position to where we fail to meet our obligations to pay our debt,” Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told The Hill. “Welcome to the United States Congress. Do I wish we could fix this thing once and for all? The answer to that is yes. Is this going to do it? Clearly not. Not at this stage of the negotiations.”
“These debt-limit debates are never fun; nobody wants to do it,” Senate Republican Whip John Thune, R-S.D., added. “”We’ll see what the House sends us; figure out how to process it.”
By contrast, other Senate Republicans applauded McCarthy for extending the debt ceiling by 11 months.
In a joint statement, Republican Sens. Rick Scott, of Florida, Mike Lee, of Utah, Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, and Mike Braun, of Indiana, said, “It is a courageous first step toward a better and more prosperous America. There is a strong, conservative Republican Party all across America that is demanding action to put our nation back on the path to fiscal sanity.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries say they are unwilling to negotiate over the debt ceiling. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
With a slim five-seat majority to hold onto power in the House, McCarthy is hurtling toward one of the most consequential weeks of the new lower chamber’s Republican majority as he labors to pass the partisan package that would raise the nation’s debt limit by $1.5 trillion in exchange for steep cuts that some in his own party oppose.
McCarthy is trying to nudge President Joe Biden to the negotiating table, as the country teeters toward a debt default crisis, needing to lift the borrowing cap to keep fully paying the bills in a matter of weeks. “We’re going to vote on this – this week – and we’re gonna pass this bill,” McCarthy said on Fox News on Sunday.
At the White House, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the legislative package from the Republicans is “cruel,” and would hit Americans with steep and painful program cuts.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has bucked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is weighing whether to vote in favor of a partisan package to raise the nation’s debt limit by $1.5 trillion in exchange for steep cuts. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
Still, McCarthy is trying to force Democrats to bargain, hoping that muscling his own party’s proposal to passage will be an opening bid that Biden will be forced to respond to with his own offer. Biden has derided the Republicans’ “wacko” ideas, but even some Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., say it’s time to negotiate.
But first, the Republican speaker faces the enormous task of passing the package, uniting what his team refers to as the “five families” – the often warring factions of conservatives and far-right Republicans that make up the House GOP majority.
The House Freedom Caucus has yet to bless McCarthy’s proposal – though key conservatives who have bucked the speaker, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., have spoken favorably of it. Having gained much of what he wanted, Gaetz said he is still trying to bolster the new work requirements for those receiving some government aid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.