White House considers potential Democratic bailout as essential for passing debt ceiling compromise. This informal projection stems from concerns among Biden administration officials regarding House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's capacity to rally a significant majority of Republicans to support a bipartisan agreement. Moreover, there is an anticipation that numerous conservative members within the GOP are prepared to oppose any indication of a compromise.
For a while now, prominent Democrats have anticipated that a resolution to the debt ceiling impasse would require some level of Democratic backing. President Biden has emphasized the importance of a bipartisan solution to the issue. As negotiations continue to iron out the details of a legislative compromise, those familiar with the matter caution that it's still premature to determine the exact number of Democrats required to help Speaker McCarthy secure a majority, or even if a deal will be reached at all.
However, the recognition that a significant portion of House votes from the Democratic side may be necessary to avert a potentially calamitous default - alongside the need for Senate approval, given the Democratic majority - has significantly influenced the White House's negotiation approach. To ensure potential support from Democrats, aides have taken a tougher stance against proposed budget cuts and limitations on social welfare programs put forward by Republicans, as they fear such measures could trigger a backlash among the Democrats whose backing may ultimately be needed to finalize a deal.
According to a statement made by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
It’s important that we don’t take steps back from the very strong agenda that the president himself shepherded and led over the last two years. What I’ve said to Leader [Hakeem] Jeffries, and to the White House, is the president has to remember that whatever he negotiates has to go through both chambers.- Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Republican attempts to enhance work requirements for programs like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well as their proposals for significant spending cuts to various domestic programs, have been met with resistance from the White House. According to two additional sources familiar with the discussions, these disagreements were a contributing factor to the breakdown of talks over the past weekend and are currently complicating negotiations. Republicans have accused the administration of lacking a sense of urgency in resolving the issue.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sitting on one of the chairs in the House
In response, the White House has emphasized to Republicans that any agreement Speaker McCarthy reaches must also garner support from numerous Democratic representatives in order to pass through the House. By reminding Republicans of the need for bipartisan backing, White House officials are asserting the importance of finding common ground that can appease both parties and secure the necessary votes for a successful outcome.
“The unanswered question is whether McCarthy can rally a majority for whatever deal he cuts when you know the big items are off the table,” said one adviser close to the White House. “They don’t have clarity on their side.”
In the debt ceiling dispute, Speaker McCarthy has consistently urged his caucus to maintain unity, emphasizing that their position has been bolstered by their previous success in passing a bill that raised the borrowing limit while incorporating substantial spending reductions. However, McCarthy is also aware that a faction of Republican members is committed to voting against any compromise legislation, as they consider the previously passed bill to be a starting point rather than a final solution.
Speaker McCarthy has adhered to the "Hastert rule," a principle stating that legislation should only proceed to the floor if it garners support from the majority party. With the Republican Party currently holding 222 votes, the speaker can afford to lose the backing of up to 110 members while still having enough support to move forward with a bill.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre restated on Tuesday that any debt ceiling agreement must be a measure that can garner the support and agreement of both Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate. This emphasizes the administration's commitment to seeking a bipartisan resolution that can secure widespread support across party lines in order to address the debt ceiling issue effectively.
Rank-and-file Democrats recognize the significant political pressure they face to support any agreement endorsed by President Biden. They understand that failing to back such a deal could have detrimental consequences for both the economy and their own party's leader.
Consequently, there is a strong awareness among Democrats of the need to avoid leaving the economy and their fellow party members in a vulnerable position. This acknowledgment adds to the sense of responsibility among Democrats to find common ground and rally behind a debt ceiling agreement that can garner widespread support.
According to an anonymous House Democrat, there is a sentiment within the party that if a deal bears President Joe Biden's endorsement, Democrats will be inclined to vote in favor of it. This statement reflects the understanding that party loyalty and the association with President Biden can significantly influence Democrats' voting decisions.
As Democrats gear up to swiftly pass a debt ceiling deal before the June 1 deadline, they are anticipating that Speaker McCarthy may face significant opposition from the conservative wing of his party. This scenario could potentially require Democrats to contribute between 50 and 100 votes in support of the deal.
Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a former Democratic whip with extensive experience in managing party votes, considered the upper-bound estimate of 100 Democratic votes to be a reasonable projection. However, he cautioned that Representative Hakeem Jeffries, another influential Democrat, needs to be involved in the agreement. This highlights the importance of garnering support from key Democratic figures to ensure a successful passage of the debt ceiling deal.
“They’re going to need our votes,” he said. “If Jeffries and Biden reach an agreement, I think we’ll pass it.”
Whipping support for a contentious debt agreement would pose a significant early challenge for the newly formed House Democratic leadership. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, who has been leading the conference for just five months, has been confronted with various concerns from fellow Democrats regarding the trajectory of the negotiations and the concessions that may be required from their side to secure a deal.
During discussions on Monday, Jeffries hinted at objections raised by Democrats regarding the possibility of budget cuts being included in a potential compromise. He referred to a spending freeze proposed by the White House as "an inherently reasonable position" but acknowledged that it might make many members of the party uncomfortable. This highlights the delicate balancing act faced by Democratic leaders in navigating the diverse opinions within their party while striving to reach a viable agreement on the debt ceiling issue.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wearing a pink suit on a black dress with a straight face
When questioned about her ability to secure votes for a debt agreement endorsed by President Biden, House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) responded by stating that they would make every effort to ensure that the American people comprehend the lose-lose situation created by Republicans.
Typically, Democratic moderates from groups like the Problem Solvers Caucus, Blue Dog Coalition, and New Democrat Coalition are the initial targets for securing votes in a bipartisan plan. However, the more votes Democrats require, the more they will need to engage with their progressive wing, which already opposes several significant policies currently under discussion.
As the number of required votes increases, Democrats may find themselves having to bridge divisions within their own party and seek support from more progressive members. This dynamic poses a challenge as they navigate the differing priorities and policy stances within their caucus while striving to pass a debt agreement that can gain broad support.
According to a statement made by Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats
The voters gave us a divided Congress, divided control. Usually, when you have a bipartisan agreement, what that means is that the farthest elements of both caucuses don’t like it - and that’s just the nature of things.- Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats
“At the end of the day, we will make our own decisions about what deal is presented, but there will be a huge backlash, even if it’s a bad deal that could pass” the House, Jayapal said.
White House officials have largely dismissed progressive criticism of their negotiation strategy, as they privately believe that any compromise reached will be much better than the worst fears of the left. However, in recent times, aides have taken steps to reassure lawmakers that they do not take their votes for granted. This includes briefing Senate Democrats on the negotiation parameters and maintaining close communication with key House members, including progressives.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, stated that the caucus, consisting of 101 House Democrats, strongly opposes the inclusion of work requirements, permitting reform, and spending cuts, all of which are currently being considered. This highlights the significant policy differences and potential challenges faced in gaining progressive support for certain elements of the negotiation.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) echoed concerns about the potential inclusion of spending caps and work requirements in the debt agreement, predicting that it would lead to significant backlash. She emphasized the negative consequences that such measures could have and expressed apprehension regarding their impact.
Representative Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, which encompasses 56 House members, had discussions with White House negotiators over the weekend. During these conversations, he conveyed the group's strong opposition to work requirements. Horsford stated that he felt the White House negotiators listened attentively and understood the caucus's stance on the matter.
These statements from Ocasio-Cortez and Horsford highlight the opposition from progressive and caucus members to the potential inclusion of certain provisions in the debt agreement. Their concerns underscore the need for the White House to navigate these policy differences and engage with various factions within the Democratic Party to build consensus and secure support for the final agreement.