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House GOP leaders forge ahead with debt limit vote

Late changes won over some but not all holdouts

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen in the Capitol on April 20. He predicted a passage vote will happen later on Wednesday.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen in the Capitol on April 20. He predicted a passage vote will happen later on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican lawmakers expect the House to vote on their debt limit and spending cut bill Wednesday after last-minute changes moved several undecided members into the “yes” column.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters after a Wednesday morning conference meeting with his members that a vote on final passage would occur later that day, although he declined to confirm whether he had enough votes to pass it.

“I don’t want to take all your anticipation away,” McCarthy said.

Some Republicans heading into or leaving the conference meeting said they remained undecided on the bill, including Florida’s Matt Gaetz, South Carolina’s Nancy Mace and New York’s George Santos.

Mace said she’s told leadership she’s still “leaning no” because the $4.8 trillion the bill is estimated to save is not enough to balance the budget.

“If we can come up with a plan to do that this session, then we’ve got something to work with,” Mace said. “That’s my message to leadership today, and we’ll see where we go from here.”

Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said he planned to vote against the bill because he doesn’t think it has enough “real debt reduction.” He also said leadership blew off a planned meeting with him, but that wasn’t driving his decision.

Still, Burchett predicted that his vote wouldn’t undermine leadership’s hopes of passing the bill.

“They can get it without me,” he said.

The first test of support will come early Wednesday afternoon when the House is scheduled to vote on a rule for the bill that, if adopted, would automatically fold the manager’s amendment containing the changes into the bill text.

Biofuel credits

The amendment would strike provisions repealing three of the five biofuel-related tax credits that Midwestern GOP members sought to protect. The amendment would still repeal the other two credits but would grandfather in projects with signed contracts or “concrete investment action” undertaken up until April 19, the date GOP leaders introduced the original bill.

McCarthy met with the Midwestern Republicans Tuesday evening but said afterward he wasn’t planning to change the bill. However, negotiations continued into the night and ultimately resulted in the changes brought before the Rules Committee.

The speaker said he’s not heard any members raising concerns about the changes, which he called “technical” in nature. McCarthy said no further changes will be made to the bill before the vote.

Two of the four Iowa Republicans — Reps. Randy Feenstra and Zach Nunn — indicated that the changes had won their support for the bill as they left the conference meeting.

“This is huge,” Nunn said. “I mean, this makes a big impact . . . and it’s a massive sea change from where we were just 24 hours ago. I think that’s a compliment to the Midwesterners, particularly the Iowa delegation that didn’t break, for the support we had at home.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, wouldn’t comment other than to note that her state’s delegation was defending “67,000 jobs, billions of dollars, contracts that were already negotiated.”

“This is critically important to Iowa,” she said.

The fourth Iowa Republican, Rep. Ashley Hinson, ignored reporters’ questions.

Missouri GOP Rep. Mark Alford said in a statement that he would support the bill because of the changes.

“Our goal was to protect renewable fuel investments, ethanol and biodiesel, and we achieved that through our negotiations with the speaker,” he said, noting that McCarthy “showed a great ability to listen.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., characterized the late changes as reverting to the original intent of the bill, which was to get rid of new and expanded clean energy credits from Democrats’ 2022 climate package. The biodiesel and other credits that would remain in place under the managers’ amendment existed prior to last year’s law, which extended them through 2024.

“More or less, they’re more technical changes than anything in making sure that we are not going back and changing the underlying status quo,” Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., said.

Work requirements

Another change leadership made in the manager’s amendment was designed to appease conservatives’ calls for stiffer work requirements.

The amendment would move up implementation of expanded work requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families beneficiaries by a year, to Oct. 1, 2024. A provision to bar states from carrying unused exemptions from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work rules over to the next year would also start a year earlier.

Gaetz, who was among the members pushing to speed up the implementation of the work requirements, said he wanted to review the changes before deciding how he’d vote. He said he was frustrated that leadership had made the changes in the middle of the night. The Rules Committee reported out the rule with the manager’s amendment after 2 a.m. Wednesday.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., who was also pushing for the work requirement changes, said he plans to vote for the bill.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “We got to get in and be in the arena and stay on offense.”

Perry and fellow Freedom Caucus member Bob Good, R-Va., both said they didn’t like that the manager’s amendment retains some of the energy tax credits they pushed to repeal, but they support the measure on balance.

“None of us got everything we wanted in [the] deal,” Good said. “It takes 218. It doesn’t take one vote. So not any of us can pass a bill on our own.”

Paul M. Krawzak and David Lerman contributed to this report.

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