A bipartisan bill to suspend the debt limit through Jan. 1, 2025, and cut spending by at least $1.5 trillion passed the House with a coalition of Republican and Democratic votes built from the center out.
The 314-117 vote was carried by 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats — an outcome largely expected after Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., President Joe Biden and their proxies negotiated a deal that involved wins and concessions from both sides.
Much of the opposition — 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats — came from the far right and left wings of the parties. But there were also some more surprising “no” votes, including from McCarthy allies, appropriators who will have to write spending bills capped by the bill and others from groups primed to support bipartisan deals.
House Freedom Caucus
Roughly half of the 71 Republican “no” votes came from members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus. Group member Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., missed the vote but had planned to oppose the bill.
And 26 Freedom Caucus members were upset enough to take the extraordinary step of voting against the rule that set up floor debate on the bill, a procedural vote that typically falls along party lines regardless of how members plan to vote on final passage.
The Freedom Caucus took an official position against the bill, arguing that it failed to “hold the line” on most of the $4.8 trillion in savings the House passed in a Republican-only debt limit bill, and weakened the provisions it did retain. “It is a disappointment across the board,” the group’s statement said.
Freedom Caucus member Gary Palmer, R-Ala., is the only member of the elected GOP leadership team who voted against the bill. However, his position as chair of the Republican Policy Committee is low profile compared to the other GOP leadership roles.
Another Freedom Caucus member, Texas Republican Randy Weber, appeared on stage at a press conference GOP leaders held Tuesday night to highlight party wins in the debt limit bill, but he ultimately voted against it. Weber and Palmer did back the rule that many of his colleagues opposed.
Weber said on Twitter that while he respects McCarthy’s team “for negotiating a debt ceiling [bill] with the hand they were dealt,” ultimately too few provisions from the House-passed bill were included.
“Regrettably, the deal just does not go far enough to get America back on track,” he said.
Never debt limiters
When House Republicans passed their partisan debt limit bill in late April, a significant number cast their first-ever votes for a debt limit increase.
Only four Republicans voted against both the GOP bill and the bipartisan bill that passed Wednesday: Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee and Matt Gaetz of Florida. Biggs and Buck are in the Freedom Caucus, but Gaetz and Burchett are not.
“After tonight, only four Republicans will remain in Congress who have never voted to raise the Debt Limit. I’m proud to be among them,” Gaetz said in a statement. “Though the Fiscal Hawk is an increasingly endangered species in Washington, we find ourselves hunted nonetheless.”
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Forty of the 46 Democratic “no” votes came from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the caucus chairwoman, cited several provisions she and her members didn’t like in the bill, including expanded work requirements for low-income benefit programs, permitting provisions that would curtail environmental reviews, clawbacks of IRS funding and nondefense spending caps.
“These are problems. More people will go hungry or be barred from income support they desperately need,” she said. “There will be real, harmful impacts for environmental justice and the fight against the climate crisis. The rescissions in funding … will have an impact for our constituents.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., another Progressive Caucus member who opposed the bill, said Democrats had to provide some votes to prevent an economic crisis, but some of them also needed to hold Republicans’ feet to the fire by voting against it.
“You are cutting food assistance, you are pushing through a disastrous pipeline, you are causing harm to the environment and you’re holding the entire U.S. economy hostage at the same time, and you should have consequences for that,” she said.
Two of the House progressives who voted against the deal are running for Senate in a competitive California primary to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Reps. Barbara Lee and Katie Porter opposed the bill, while their fellow California Democrat and Senate candidate Adam B. Schiff voted for it.
Lee said in a statement that Biden made “the best of a lose-lose situation” but that she was “holding the line for the Democratic party’s core values, which include fighting for low-income people, for the environment, and for the most vulnerable.”
Porter did not release a statement Wednesday night.
Schiff said in a statement that he “voted to stand with California families who would have been devastated by a disastrous default.”
House Democrats running for or considering Senate bids in other states, such as Michigan, Arizona, Texas, Maryland and Delaware, also voted for the bill.
On the Republican side, Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who is running for Senate with backing from the chamber’s leadership, missed the vote. But he had announced plans to oppose it because it didn’t do enough to address the national debt and it would extend the debt limit past the presidential election.
“We can’t write Joe Biden a blank check for the rest of his presidency!” Banks said on Twitter.
Republican Alex X. Mooney, who is seeking the Senate nomination in West Virginia, voted no.
Some of the most surprising “no” votes came from members that are considered McCarthy allies.
Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, a freshman whom McCarthy frequently touted as top recruit in the 2022 campaign, voted against the bill.
Hunt explained in a lengthy Twitter thread that he opposed the bill because he felt Republicans were giving up too much leverage to get party priorities like border security measures and a full repeal of mandatory IRS tax enforcement funding enacted.
“The concessions made by the Speaker in his negotiations with President Biden fall far short of my expectations and the expectations of my friends and neighbors in Congressional District 38,” Hunt said.
Hunt and Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida, another GOP “no” vote, both gave nominating speeches for McCarthy during the January speaker’s election.
Cammack tweeted that she voted “no” because her bill that would require congressional authorization for major administration regulatory initiatives had been left out. That measure, known informally as the REINS Act, was included in the earlier bill House Republicans passed.
“You can cut and cap spending, but if you don’t change the way we do business in Washington and rein big government in — nothing will ever change,” she said.
With most Democrats backing the measure, a major defection was Appropriations Committee ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who will be a lead negotiator for her party in talks about how to write the spending bills to the caps laid out in the legislation.
DeLauro said in a statement that the bill “subverts the annual appropriations process, constrains only domestic investments, and sets us on a dangerous path.”
She expressed concern that the agreement’s $54 billion in “adjustments” to bolster nondefense, nonveterans health funding in fiscal 2024 is not guaranteed in the bill but instead covered in a “non-binding side agreement.”
“I can live with a painful compromise, but I can not accept one so lopsided,” DeLauro said.
Other opposition from appropriators could spell trouble as the committee seeks to retool its bills to the new spending caps.
Lee, the ranking member of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, cited the caps as a reason for her opposition. New York Democrat Adriano Espaillat, the ranking member of the Legislative Branch Appropriations panel, also voted “no.”
“This bill critically undercuts the appropriations process, one of the last processes in Washington where Democrats and Republicans work together,” Pocan said in a statement, citing “too many unanswered questions and unknown, undisclosed side deals.”
Torres said in a statement she has “deep concerns with the dangerous precedent this bill sets by relegating the budget and appropriations process to the whims of a few, rather than the experts” on the committees.
On the Republican side, Maryland’s Andy Harris, who is in the Freedom Caucus and leads the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, opposed the measure.
“We cannot, in good conscience, continue to write blank checks for our federal government knowing that our children and grandchildren will be the ones responsible for paying off the largest debt in American history,” Harris said in a statement.
Military Construction-VA Appropriations Chairman John Carter, R-Texas, opposed the bill, saying his district opposed it.
“This bill doesn’t make Washington accountable for its waste,” he tweeted. “Instead, it will add another $4 trillion to our national debt, a burden that falls on every one of my constituents.”
A few Republicans who opposed the bill cited concerns about capping the defense spending level for next year at Biden’s topline figure of $886 billion — only a 3 percent increase, below inflation.
“That’s cutting submarines,” said Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., who voted against the bill. “That’s cutting ships while you have a massive military buildup from China. We can’t do this on the backs of our troops.”
Rep. Mark Alford, R-Mo., who like Waltz is on the Armed Services Committee, also opposed the bill. Alford said he is particularly concerned about defense spending in fiscal 2025, when all spending would be capped at 1 percent growth.
“China is building its military at a much faster pace than we are,” he said in a statement. “This legislation will only exacerbate that deficit.”
In total, a dozen Armed Services Committee Republicans voted against the bill. The others either did not cite inadequate defense spending as a reason or did not put out a statement explaining their vote. Rep. Ro Khanna of California, the only Democrat on the Armed Services Committee to vote “no,” complained that the bill “increases spending for defense and limits the pot of money for everything else.”
Rep. George Santos of New York was the only Republican from a district Biden won in the last presidential cycle to vote against the deal.
Two Republican full committee chairs, Veterans Affairs’ Mike Bost of Illinois and Ethics’ Michael Guest of Mississippi, voted no. Five Democratic ranking members in addition to DeLauro also voted against it: Judiciary’s Jerrold Nadler of New York, Education’s Robert C. Scott of Virginia, Natural Resources’ Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Rules’ Jim McGovern and Small Business’ Nydia M. Velázquez of New York.
Florida’s Vern Buchanan was one of six Republicans on the Ways and Means Committeeto vote against the bill. Buchanan ran for committee chair after the 2022 election and lost to Missouri Republican Jason Smith, despite touting his relationships with McCarthy and other GOP leaders who have significant influence on the steering committee that hands out gavels.
“Very disappointed to see this bill increase the national debt by $4 trillion in half as many years and do very little to actually get our fiscal house in order,” Buchanan tweeted.
The Ways and Means Committee has primary jurisdiction over the debt limit and is a prime panel where assignments typically only go to party loyalists. Panel Republicans Darin LaHood of Illinois, Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, Greg Steube of Florida, Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota and Beth Van Duyne of Texas all voted with Buchanan against the bill. Three committee Democrats — John B. Larson of Connecticut, Judy Chu of California and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin — also voted against the bill.
Three Republican members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which endorsed the bill, ultimately voted against it: Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Gonzales and Cline, the only Problem Solver also in the Freedom Caucus.
Mace was also notable among the opposition since she often publicly broadcasts problems with bills and then cuts last-minute deals with leadership before voting “yes.” But this time she was not swayed.
“Republicans didn’t get anything out of this,” Mace said. “Democrats got everything that they wanted, and then some.”
Aidan Quigley contributed to this report.