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The House manages to get it together on the debt ceiling

With just days to spare, the House has approved a debt ceiling bill that’s poised to avert a financial crisis.

A crowd of people in suits and ties surround Kevin McCarthy, pointing microphones at him and taking videos with their cellphones.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters as he walks to his office at the Capitol on May 31, 2023, in Washington, DC. 
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Congress got one major step closer to averting a default on Wednesday after the House approved debt ceiling legislation 314-117, with a sizable number of both Republicans and Democrats supporting the bill. Ultimately, 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats voted for the bill.

The House vote was expected to be the more contentious of the two chambers, and the bill now heads to the Senate, where it’s set to have a relatively smooth path to passage. The House vote on the deal is significant given reports that upward of 20 Republicans intended to vote against the bill, and worries that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy would be short the support necessary for it to pass. In the end, a number of conservative Republicans as well as progressive Democrats opposed the bill, while a bulk of moderates in both parties backed it.

The final legislation is a compromise between President Joe Biden and McCarthy, and will suspend the debt limit until January 2025, ensuring that the issue won’t be a point of contention until after the 2024 presidential election. It also contains two years of spending caps, an expansion in work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a. food stamps), and an end to a pause in federal student loan payments that’s been in place since 2020.

Multiple conservatives had railed against the bill over the last few days because they felt McCarthy hadn’t secured aggressive enough spending cuts or concessions in exchange for the suspension of the debt ceiling. Conversely, progressives felt like Biden shouldn’t have engaged in negotiations to begin with, and felt he gave away too much on work requirements.

With just days to go until June 5, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen projected that the US could run out of money to pay all of its bills, Congress seems like it’s managed to pull an agreement through in time to avoid an economic calamity.

What’s in the debt ceiling deal

Both parties have sought to sell the debt ceiling deal as a win for their respective interests, with the White House emphasizing that the cuts are far lower than those the GOP initially demanded, and Republicans stressing that they used their leverage to force the White House to the table.

Below is a brief rundown of some key provisions in the deal:

  • A suspension of the debt ceiling until January 2025
  • A cap on non-defense spending in fiscal year 2024 to fiscal year 2022 levels, and a 1 percent increase in fiscal year 2025
  • An expansion to work requirements for food stamps that raises the age for these requirements from 49 to 54
  • Stricter work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program
  • The resumption of student loan payments at the end of summer 2023, following a multiyear pause
  • The repurposing of $20 billion in IRS funds to other domestic spending
  • The clawback of roughly $28 billion in unspent Covid-19 funds
  • Expedited approval for the controversial Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia

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