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Key House GOP lawmaker urges debt limit vote this month

'We must work night and day to get it passed to show the American people we can be trusted,' RSC chairman says in letter to colleagues

Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla., left, and House Budget Chairman Jodey C. Arrington, R-Texas, leave a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the Capitol Hill Club on Feb. 28.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla., left, and House Budget Chairman Jodey C. Arrington, R-Texas, leave a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the Capitol Hill Club on Feb. 28. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Passing a “strong” debt limit bill should be House Republicans’ top legislative priority in April, Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla., wrote to colleagues on Wednesday.

Hern sent a letter to the RSC’s 176 members arguing “the time for action is now” amid the ongoing stalemate between Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and President Joe Biden as the Treasury Department approaches a $31.4 trillion statutory borrowing cap.

The debt limit’s “x date,” when Treasury can no longer make all required payments on time, is expected as early as June.

“We must work night and day to get it passed to show the American people we can be trusted and force the Senate and White House to answer for their dereliction of duty,” Hern wrote.

The RSC’s membership represents nearly 80 percent of the Republican Conference and includes a broad cross-section of ideological factions, committee chairs and members of the party leadership.

McCarthy said earlier this month that Republicans are coalescing around a debt limit bill they could bring to the floor if Biden did not agree to negotiate. House Republicans are seeking to pair any debt limit increase with policy concessions from the White House.

McCarthy said the bill would reflect the positions he laid out in a March letter to Biden. These positions, which he stressed were not exhaustive, included discretionary spending cuts and caps, rescinding pandemic aid, and other energy policy and border security measures, along with bolstering work requirements for benefit programs.

Biden has called on the House to raise the debt ceiling without conditions attached. While he’s said he is willing to discuss spending with McCarthy, he has said he will not negotiate on the debt limit.

Hern’s letter did not specify what the RSC is seeking in the bill, but the group released a “debt limit playbook” in March that identified energy policy changes and cutting discretionary spending as the group’s top aims in the debt ceiling negotiations.

The House faces a tight two-week window to meet Hern’s request after the body returns from its Easter recess on Monday. There are just eight voting days left this month as currently scheduled, though more days could ultimately be added.

Next week, the House is scheduled to consider legislation that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in women and girls’ school sports programs. An attempt to override Biden’s veto of a resolution disapproving of a new rule that revised which bodies of water are subject to federal regulations is also on the calendar, along with several suspension bills.

Hern wrote that the debt limit talks to this point have been “invaluable,” but that the time for discussion is coming to an end.

“Countless discussions in recent weeks have shown our members are unified in their desire to deliver as strong a solution as possible for the American people,” Hern wrote.

Additionally, the RSC is also expected to release its budget next week, as Congress is poised to miss the April 15 statutory deadline to adopt a budget resolution.

While House Budget Chairman Jodey C. Arrington, R-Texas, has promised that a budget resolution is “forthcoming,” it appears the budget has taken a back seat to the conference’s debt ceiling discussions.