COMPASS: Lee Letter

May 9th, 2023

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

The House is in session for the next three weeks and the Senate is in session for the next two weeks. The House will take up H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023 this week, one of the majorities major promises for this Congress. H.R. 2 is a compilation of policies from three committees: Judiciary, Homeland, and Foreign Affairs. The Rules Committee will vote on the measure this afternoon with floor consideration later this week.

Last week, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), at a widely attended and well covered press conference, announced that he was sending an open letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), stating in no uncertain terms, that the undersigned 43 Senators “will not be voting for cloture on any bill that raises the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budget reforms.” This essentially means that Senator Lee and the other Senators will not vote to advance a clean debt ceiling. Getting the letter over 40 Senators was, according to Senator Lee, critical to his effort as any cloture vote would require 60 Yes votes.

This move by these Senators puts Speaker McCarthy in a strong negotiating position as he heads to the White House along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority Leader Hakeem, Jeffries (D-NY) to try and cut a deal ahead of the “X-date”. This marks the first time that President Biden has engaged in a conversation about the debt ceiling with Speaker McCarthy since the beginning of February. As Minority Leader McConnell has said to President Biden, “You’ve got to cut a deal with McCarthy, not me.” That deal, according to Speaker McCarthy, is what the House passed with a two vote margin on April 26. Included in that deal are enacted spending caps and reductions in year over year spending. Caps that would be used to move forward with appropriations bills that cut spending.

The middle of May through the middle of June marks the beginning of the appropriations season in the House of Representatives, and from all indications, the House Appropriations Committee – once a topline budget number is established – will move forward with their plan to “mark” or write their spending bills to FY22 levels – which would be a reduction of $131 billion in spending. Many tough questions remain, but one question still left unsettled is how the House would, with a 4 seat majority, take up and pass these appropriations bills that contain potentially objectionable earmarks.

This certainly will not be the end of the debate, but as some reports are showing, Democrats are feeling the pressure to put forth a plan other than hiking the debt ceiling without a long-term plan to cut spending and grow the economy.

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One More Thing…

ICYMI: The Policy Director for Center for Renewing America will be testifying in front of the House Budget Committee on May 11 at 10:00am on “Exposing the Woke, Wasteful, and Bloated Bureaucracy”