COMPASS: Congress Passes Debt Deal, Conservatives Strike Back

June 7th, 2023

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

The House and Senate are both back in session and will be through until June 23, when both chambers will depart for the July 4, two week recess. Both bodies will then come back the week of July 10 for what will certainly be a crazy month.

Last week the House and Senate passed H.R. 3746, the Fiscal Responsibility Act for 2023 and on June 3, the President signed the bill into law. The bill passed both the House and the Senate with a majority of Democrat votes, and the Biden White House proclaiming victory saying it locks in “an incredibly strong set of progressive accomplishments over the last two and a half years.” Only 17 Senate Republicans supported the deal with 36 opposing, and 71 House Republicans opposed it. H.R. 3746 became the fifth bill signed into law this year. While the House bill did not allow for an amendment process, the Senate debated and then voted on 11 amendments on June 1.

This all brought to close a rigorous debate about what should be done with our nation’s finances. Paul Winfree, former Director of Budget Policy at the White House under President Trump, had a thoughtful thread about one of the most contested parts of the debt ceiling deal, the idea that there was an “auto-CR” (automatic Continuing Resolution) included in the deal. Center for Renewing America President and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Trump, Russ Vought, also weighed in on the deal saying, “The bill does NOT contain an “automatic continuing resolution” as claimed. It has a 1% lowering of the two year caps IF a CR has been passed. Far from playing chess with the appropriators, this will actually incentivize omnibus bills.” Appropriators will now begin the process of trying to “markup” their appropriations bills within the confines of this debt ceiling deal. Many conservatives are skeptical of that actually being possible and tensions are rising ahead of the restarting of these markups.

While Republican leadership is adamant that this was a good deal, conservative groups like Center for Renewing America, Club for Growth, Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks strongly disagree. Further, conservative House members believe the deal cut by Speaker McCarthy violated their agreements made in January to give him the votes necessary to take the speaker’s gavel, as Cong. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) stated: “We took a stand in January to end the era of the imperial speakership. We’re concerned that the fundamental commitments that allowed Kevin McCarthy to assume the speakership have been violated as a consequence of the debt limit deal.”

Tensions spilled over onto the House floor on Tuesday evening as questions were raised surrounding the considering of H.J.Res 44, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn President Biden’s unlawful “pistol brace” rule. There are questions surrounding the decision not to vote on the CRA, as Rep. Andrew Clyde, the author of the bill, said he was told his bill would have “difficulty” coming to the House floor if he voted No on the “rule” which allowed for consideration of the debt ceiling deal. Some conservatives voted against a “rule” which eventually prevented its adoption on the House floor, in what many believe looks like a protest vote against the consideration of his CRA. The counter argument is that not all Republicans in the House Republican Conference support the legislation and there is hesitation to put that on the floor if it would fail. At the same time, the Senate is likely to consider a similar CRA which is being offered by Senator Kennedy of Louisiana.

There is some discussion about the CRA being vote on in the House next week, which, depending how the vote in the Senate turns out, could create an interesting dynamic.

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