Biden, McCarthy Work Lawmakers to Pass Deal as Time Runs Short

The White House and Republican congressional leaders geared up lobbying campaigns to win approval of a deal to avert a US default as environmentalists, defense hawks and conservative hard-liners condemned concessions.

(Bloomberg) — The White House and Republican congressional leaders geared up lobbying campaigns to win approval of a deal to avert a US default as environmentalists, defense hawks and conservative hard-liners condemned concessions.

President Joe Biden is personally calling lawmakers to support this bill, while cabinet members and senior White House staff already had called at least 60 House Democrats by early Monday morning, a Democratic official said. 

“I never say I’m confident about what the Congress is going to do, but I feel very good about it,” Biden told reporters Monday. “I’ve spoken with a number of the members. I spoke to McConnell. I spoke to a whole bunch of people. And it feels good. We’ll see when the vote starts,” he said, referring to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Both Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy expressed confidence they would muster the necessary votes. And approval gained early support from prominent members of each party’s moderate and pragmatist wings. 

The bill sets the course for federal spending through 2025 and will suspend the debt ceiling until Jan. 1, 2025, likely putting off another fight over federal borrowing authority until the middle of that year. In exchange for Republican votes for the suspension, Democrats agreed to cap federal spending for the next two years. 

White House interpretation of the caps has it telling lawmakers the deal would lower spending by about $1 trillion over a decade, while the GOP argues the spending cut is double that.

US stock index futures rose and Treasuries rallied on optimism the nation will avert a default. The 10-year yield fell as much as 7 basis points to 3.73%, down from a more than two-month high of 3.86% Friday.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a leader among his party’s moderates, tweeted in a statement Monday that he’ll back the agreement, saying it prevents a default “and subsequent financial meltdown” and limits spending.

The New Democrat Coalition leadership team, a key group of moderate House Democrats, also endorsed the deal, with chair Annie Kuster of New Hampshire saying it would avoid “economic collapse” while “preventing cuts to key programs.” 

But House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, whose caucus includes a large and restive progressive wing, hadn’t made any public statement of support as of mid-day Monday.

Biden said he was unsure whether he could convince progressives to support the bill and that he hasn’t yet spoken with Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal, a Washington state Democrat. 

“The answer is I don’t know. I have a good relationship with Jayapal. I haven’t had a chance to speak to her yet,” Biden said. 

Backers of the deal have only a week to get the agreement through Congress before a possible June 5 default that could have catastrophic consequences. 

McCarthy said Sunday that he expects a majority of Republicans to vote for the emerging bill, defending it is as a “transformational” move to rein in federal spending even though “maybe it doesn’t do everything for everyone.” 

The speaker signaled he would wait until at least Wednesday for a House vote, observing a rule requiring the text of legislation to be posted 72 hours in advance. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, whose chamber will take up the measure next, warned senators to be prepared to work through the weekend if dissenters throw up procedural obstacles to delay a vote.

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis went on “Fox & Friends” Monday morning to criticize the deal. “Our country will still be careening toward bankruptcy,” he said, disparaging the agreement for sanctioning “a massive amount of spending.”

Former President Donald Trump, DeSantis’s rival for the GOP 2024 nomination, hasn’t publicly commented on the deal since it was announced, though he had previously urged GOP congressional leaders not to compromise and instead risk a default.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s best-known environmental groups, on Monday urged opposition, citing provisions that would expedite approvals for a natural gas pipeline running across West Virginia and time limits it would impose on environmental reviews of energy projects.

“Any deal that attempts to expedite the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline, that rolls back bedrock environmental protections, and makes life harder for workers and families already struggling is a bad deal for the country,” Ben Jealous, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement.

Representative Raul Grijalva, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the agreement “gives polluters a shield, inevitably worsening an already unacceptable status quo.”

A Republican congressional aide said discontent is also brewing among the party’s defense hawks.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina went on Fox News on Sunday to condemn a 3.3% increase in defense spending in the deal as inadequate since it is lower than the current 5% annual inflation.

“Spending below inflation is not fully funding the military,” Graham said.

The agreement would hold non-security spending down next year to roughly current levels or lower.

The bill creates an $886 billion cap on security spending and a $704 billion cap on non-security domestic spending for fiscal 2024. Those would rise to $895 billion and $711 billion respectively in fiscal 2025.

There is dispute over precisely how the math adds up. The White House says that by using budget moves, the cap translates to $637 billion for domestic agencies other than veterans’ services — just $1 billion less than current levels. But the GOP says that the figure would be $583 billion, a much steeper decline.

Biden said that the military would be able to get as much money as it needed. 

“Obviously if there’s an existential need for additional funding I have no doubt we’d be able to get it, because we’d jointly do it,” he said. 

–With assistance from Alexis Shanes, Ari Natter, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Gregory Korte, Akayla Gardner and Laura Litvan.

(Updates market pricing in seventh paragraph.)

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