U.S. House of Representatives passes bill to raise debt ceiling

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday night, 314-117 to raise the debt ceiling and send the bill on to the U.S. Senate. Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives
1 of 11 | The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday night, 314-117 to raise the debt ceiling and send the bill on to the U.S. Senate. Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives

May 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted late Wednesday night, 314-117, to pass the Fiscal Responsibility Act and raise the debt ceiling in time to send it on to the U.S. Senate, just five days before the nation's default deadline.

In the final tally, 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats voted against the measure.


Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, "Tonight, we're gonna give America hope."

"Tonight we're gonna vote for the largest savings in American history, over $2.1 trillion," McCarthy added. "This is going to save families money and make America less dependent on China, changing America for the better for decades to come."

The House started debate on the debt ceiling deal at 7:15 p.m. ET, with many members repeatedly calling the bill "far from perfect," but urging passage to prevent the nation from going into default on June 5.


The full House started its 15-minute vote just after 9 p.m. and completed the vote within 25 minutes.

The bill required a simple majority, or 218 votes, to pass the 435-member House.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where its swift approval is expected.

President Joe Biden applauded the passage of the budget agreement Wednesday night.

"Tonight, the House took a critical step forward to prevent a first-ever default and protect our country's hard-earned and historic economic recovery," Biden said in a statement.

"This budget agreement is a bipartisan compromise. Neither side got everything it wanted. That's the responsibility of governing," he added.

"I have been clear that the only path forward is a bipartisan compromise that can earn the support of both parties. This agreement meets that test," Biden said. "I urge the Senate to pass it as quickly as possible so that I can sign it into law, and our country can continue building the strongest economy in the world."

As the bill now moves to the Senate for a vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., issued a statement Wednesday night, calling the bill "totally unnecessary" and promising to vote against it.


"I cannot vote for this bill. At a time of massive wealth and income inequality I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a bill that takes vital nutrition assistance away from women, infants, children and seniors, while refusing to ask billionaires who have never had it so good to pay a penny more in taxes," Sanders said.

Sanders blasted the bill for making "it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute," for spending "more on the military than the next ten nations combined," for allowing the pharmaceutical industry to charge "the American people the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs" as Sanders claimed more than "45 million Americans are drowning in student debt."

After Wednesday's passage, McCarthy celebrated the vote saying, "I think we did pretty dang good for the American public," as House Majority Leader Steve Scalise called for more.

"Nobody said it would be easy to break Washington's out-of-control spending pattern," Scalise, R-La., said after the vote. "It's just the beginning. This is by far not the end. It is the beginning of changing the pattern of spending in Washington."

But Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado said his constituents "are furious" over the debt deal and threatened a vote to remove McCarthy as speaker.


"What happened was conservatives joined with McCarthy to get McCarthy elected. Now, Democrats have joined with McCarthy to pass bills," Buck said Wednesday night. "So there was a big reassessment of the coalition for power in the House... There will be a discussion, motion to vacate. Yeah. Stay tuned."

Earlier Wednesday. the debt limit bill passed a key bipartisan procedural vote, clearing the way for the full vote on the House floor hours later. Lawmakers moved the Fiscal Responsibility Act forward to full House consideration with a vote of 241 to 187.

While not a clean debt limit hike, the legislation includes $136 billion in cuts including two years of spending caps, work requirements for food stamps and cuts to funding for the Internal Revenue Service. The bill also pulls back $27 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief funds.

The bill suspends the debt limit into January 2025, allowing the United States to avoid what would be its first-ever default in the coming days.

More than 30 Republican lawmakers took a stand earlier in the day, saying the legislation does not go far enough, as they announced they would vote against it in the full House Wednesday night.


The opposition group is made up of both far right-leaning members of the House Freedom Caucus, as well as others who voted for Speaker Kevin McCarthy's leadership bid in January.

The opposition came after the legislation cleared the House Rules Committee Tuesday by a 7-to-6 vote to move forward to the full House vote.

McCarthy, R-Calif., adhered to policy and gave his members 72 hours to read the bill, which pushed the vote into Wednesday evening.

"Washington is broken," first-term Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., tweeted Tuesday.

"After reading the bill, twice, I'm voting no on the debt ceiling debacle because playing the D.C. game isn't worth selling out our kids and grandkids."

Fellow first-term Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, who supported McCarthy in the marathon voting process to be elected speaker, also voiced displeasure with the bill.

"I am a no on the Biden-McCarthy debt ceiling agreement," Hunt said in a tweet.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Rep. Ralph Norman, R-N.C., both of whom sit on the House Rules Committee, voted Tuesday against sending the legislation forward to the House floor for a full vote.

They also voiced their intent to vote against the bill Wednesday. Roy and Norman are part of the House Freedom Caucus and will be joined by at least 19 other members who had declared by noon Wednesday how they intend to vote.


Other Freedom Caucus members who publicly vowed to vote against the bill included Reps. Bob Good, R-Va.; Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.; Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Andrew Clyde, R-Ga.; Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.; Dan Bishop, R-N.C.; Byron Donalds, R-Fla.; Eli Crane, R-Ariz.; Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla.; Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.; Marry Miller, R-Ill.; Josh Brecheen, R-Okla.; Scott Perry, R-Pa.; Eric Burlison, R-Mo.; Ben Cline, R-Va.; Mike Collins, R-Ga.; Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo.; Diana Harshbarger, R-Tenn.; and Michael Cloud, R-Texas.

Many, who also voted against McCarthy's leadership bid, argued for greater cuts to government spending in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

"The bill doesn't actually set a debt limit. Rather it suspends the debt limit entirely until Jan. 2, 2025, and there is no actual amount capping the debt ceiling," tweeted Mace, who once worked on an election campaign for former President Donald Trump.

McCarthy supporters Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.; Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla.; Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla.; and Rep. Russell Fry, R-S.C., also announced their opposition to the deal, as did Rep. Keith Self, R-Texas; Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.; Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla.; and Rep. William Timmons, R-S.C.

"The Limit, Save, Grow Act was a fiscally responsible and conservative bill. This Biden-McCarthy Debt bill is not what we signed," Mills tweeted Tuesday.


"I oppose the new deal and refuse to saddle Americans with $4 trillion in additional debt."

Republican Reps. Tim Burchett of Tennessee and Clay Higgins of Louisiana also voiced their intent to vote against the bill but were still going through the document Wednesday afternoon.

Opposition extended across the aisle, as well. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, stated their intention to vote against the legislation.

Jayapal told NBC News her entire progressive caucus is leaning toward voting the same direction, arguing the deal cuts programs and spending to the most vulnerable.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the government has until June 5 before it runs out of money to pay its bills, which would result in its first-ever default.

Now that the bill has passed the House, it will need to get through a U.S. Senate committee before the upper chamber votes on it.

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