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Debt ceiling deal's next steps — House sends bill to Senate

McCarthy faces Republican backlash over debt deal
McCarthy faces Republican backlash over debt deal 02:06

The House passed legislation to lift the debt ceiling and cut spending Wednesday and has sent it to the Senate, which is racing to vote on it before June 5, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has estimated that the nation will default on its debt obligations if lawmakers don't act in time.

The agreement includes spending cuts demanded by Republicans, but it is short of the reductions in the sweeping legislation passed by the GOP-majority House last month. In exchange for raising the debt limit for two years — beyond the next presidential election — a two-year budget deal would hold spending flat for 2024 and impose limits for 2025. 

It also expands some work requirements for food-stamp recipients and edits an environmental law to try to streamline reviews to build new energy projects.

Here's what's next in the rush to pass the debt ceiling agreement through Congress:

Lawmakers' mixed reaction

The reaction was mixed in both the House and the Senate. Ultimately, in the House, a strong majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted "yes" on the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 on Wednesday night, 314-117. Among Republicans, 149 voted for the bill and 71 voted against it, while 165 Democrats voted for the legislation and 46 voted against it. 

Similarly, in the Senate, the bill is expected to win bipartisan support, though there are Republicans and Democrats who are unhappy with the measure and plan to vote against it.

Sen. Ted Budd, Republican of North Carolina will vote no because the bill does not "fix Washington's spending addiction."  

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, also said he's likely to vote no over concerns that the bill does not contain enough defense spending.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the defense spending the "worst part of the deal," but he added, "if you look at the totality of the agreement, I think it should be supported and our defense needs will still be there." 

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, also a Republican, says he'll vote no because he "can't support something that doesn't address the problems of the country."

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, said in a statement he'll vote no because it means "slashing programs working Americans rely on and gutting environmental reviews for fossil fuel projects," a reference to a natural gas pipeline project championed by Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, that would be approved as part of the legislation.

The Senate

In the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, the pace of action will largely depend on whether any senators try to hold up the bill, possibly with amendment votes. That could tie up the legislation for a few days.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Thursday, "The Senate will stay in session until we send a bill avoiding default to President Biden's desk. We will keep working until the job is done. Time is a luxury the Senate does not have." 

Schumer warned senators, "At this point, any needless delay or any last-minute holdups would be an unnecessary and even dangerous risk," and he pointed out that "any change to this bill that forces us to send it back to the house would be entirely unacceptable." 

"It would almost guarantee default," he said. 

The Senate can move quickly when it has agreement from all 100 senators. The bill could be passed by the end of the week and then sent to Mr. Biden, who would sign it into law.

Caitlin Yilek, Nikole Killion, Weijia Jiang, Scott MacFarlane and Zak Hudak contributed to this report.

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