President Joe Biden delivers a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC, on May 29, 2023. EFE/EPA/Ting Shen/Pool

White House, GOP working against the clock to approve bill raising debt limit

Washington, May 29 (EFE).- On Memorial Day, the US holiday on which tribute is paid to members of the armed forces who have fallen in defense of the United States, Democratic and Republican lawmakers are studying the bill to raise the debt limit agreed to between the White House and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a piece of legislation that has not received the support of all members of either party but will be voted upon at mid-week.

President Joe Biden delivers a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC, on May 29, 2023. EFE/EPA/Ting Shen/Pool

President Joe Biden participated on Monday in a memorial event at Arlington National Cemetery, during which he visited – along with Vice President Kamala Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

President Joe Biden delivers a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC, on May 29, 2023. EFE/EPA/Ting Shen/Pool

Although he delivered a speech in which he called for unity, Biden made no direct reference to the issue that has raised political tensions to a fever pitch in recent weeks: raising the debt limit to avoid a US government default, that is where the federal government is forced to suspend payment on its outstanding and previously contracted debts.

After the Biden administration’s announcement on Sunday that a definitive agreement to raise the debt ceiling had been reached with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the bill was sent to congresspeople and senators for their perusal, and the White House and McCarthy began explaining it to members of the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively.

As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned last week, June 5 will be the deadline past which the US government will find itself without funds to pay its obligations.

Thus, there is a very tight time schedule for getting the bill approved by the Republican-controlled house, the Democrat-controlled Senate and then signed into law by Biden, and so the administration and GOP lawmakers have been moving quickly to ensure that it can pass through the process in a very timely manner.

According to White House sources cited by the local press, on Monday and Tuesday the Biden administration will speak with House Democrats and will hold three meetings each day focusing on energy policy, changes in assistance programs for families in need and other points that were modified in the debt limit negotiations to satisfy the Republicans’ demands for spending cuts.

The information sessions will be headed by several White House officials who will have the task of getting Democratic lawmakers to agree to the cuts, which Biden has said were necessary to protect his administration’s “key priorities.”

The Axios Web site is publishing the guide being circulated among Democrats regarding the bill, a text in which it states that Republicans’ “extreme demands” were not agreed to and calling on them to vote “yes” on the measure.

The text of the guide says that House Democrats are working “responsibly” to avoid a failure to pay US debts, adding that MAGA Republicans (supporters of ex-President Donald Trump) are threatening to bring about a recession that will kill jobs.

The procedure for approving the bill will get under way on Tuesday, when the House Committee on Rules, which is responsible for getting bills presented to Congress properly, will schedule debate on the bill and the vote.

This will be a key moment, given that the nine-Republican and four-Democrat committee includes three of the GOP’s most conservative members – Tom Massie of Kentucky, Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Chip Roy of Texas – all of whom have criticized the bill.

Roy said that he will try to delay passage of the bill, stating that by passing it the US would be moving full speed ahead toward bankruptcy.

However, McCarthy is continuing to say that he will gain the support of most of the Republicans in the House, and in an interview with Fox News on Sunday he said that more than 95 percent of GOP House members are enthusiastic about the agreement.

A total of 218 votes are needed to approve the bill in the House, which has a total of 435 members: 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats.

If the bill is approved on Wednesday in the House it could be voted on in the Senate starting on Thursday, where Democrats hold 51 seats to the Republicans’ 49, although 60 votes are needed to pass it.

According to White House sources and an information flyer distributed by Republicans, the agreement will extend the debt limit to Jan. 1, 2025, after the November 2024 presidential elections.

The bill retains spending unrelated to defense outlays for 2024 and increases that spending by just 1 percent in 2025, after adjustments in this area were made.

The spending cuts included in the bill will not affect health programs or Social Security but they would impact some social programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

EFE –/bp