US debt limit deal: passage through Congress

Will Congress pass the debt limit deal before next Monday’s deadline? Also covered: it’s not looking good for the left in either New Zealand or Spain.

2:29pm The Senate’s roll call vote is now available. There’s no party summary, but just five of the 36 Nays came from Dems. So Dems (including three indies who usually caucus with them) voted in favour by 46-5, while Reps were opposed by 31-17. One Rep missed the vote. So 90% of Senate Dems but just 35% of Senate Reps were in favour of this debt limit deal. That’s much worse for McCarthy than the House vote.

2:11pm The bill has passed the Senate by a 63-36 margin, and now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature. And that’s the end of the 2023 debt limit crisis.

11:42am Friday It looks as if the US Senate could vote for final passage of the debt limit bill about 2pm AEST today (midnight US eastern). Senate leaders have told their colleagues there’s no time for the Senate’s usual delays.

3:57pm There was some drama, with 52 Dems voting for the rule that set the parameters for the debate on the debt limit bill. It’s very unusual for the minority party to give the majority any support on rule votes, but they had to or the rule would have failed owing to 29 Rep defections. The rule passed by 241-187, and there’s speculation a deal was cut between McCarthy and Dem House leader Hakeem Jeffries.

12:15pm The full roll call is now available. Reps voted in favour by 149-71, a 68% “yes” vote, and Dems by 165-46, a 78% “yes” vote. The overall “yes” percentage was 73%. Four missed the vote: two Reps and two Dems.

11:33am Thursday In the end there was no late drama regarding McCarthy’s speakership in the House, and the debt limit compromise bill has been passed by the House by a 314 to 117 margin.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is a paid election analyst for The Conversation. His work for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The US House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a 222-213 majority, is expected to vote on the debt limit compromise bill Thursday morning AEST. If this vote is held, I expect it will pass easily as the bill is only being criticized by the right, and Democratic support will make up for Republican defections.

There are two ways right-wing Republicans could derail this vote, both involving the ousting of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. First, they could attempt to show that McCarthy no longer has the confidence of a majority of House Republicans. Second, they could initiate a “motion to vacate” to the full House. Democrats would then be in the odd position of needing to vote to save McCarthy. If McCarthy were ousted, the House could not consider other business until a new Speaker was elected.

Cooperating with the opposition on a no-confidence vote is much harder in a parliamentary system, as, if it succeeds, the most likely outcome is a new election, not a more right-wing leader. But neither chamber of the US Congress can be dissolved early.

If the bill passes the House, it must still be approved by the Senate, where Democrats hold a 51-49 majority. The Senate can only act quickly if unanimous consent is provided. If even one of the 100 senators is bloody-minded enough to deny unanimous consent to every motion, it will cause major delays. This US ABC article says it could take a week to pass the Senate, and names Republican Mike Lee as someone who could deny unanimous consent. If that occurred, the Senate would not pass the bill until after next Monday’s deadline.

From a tactical perspective, I believe the right’s anger with McCarthy is justified. Democrats made a major blunder by not lifting the debt limit while they still held control of the presidency, House and Senate prior to January 3 this year. As I related on the previous debt limit thread, national polls showed support for spending cuts, that there was little difference in who voters would blame for a default, and that Joe Biden’s ratings were falling.

This was a massive opportunity for McCarthy to force a much worse deal on Biden that would have distressed the left. Instead he let Democrats off the hook for their earlier blunder. In the end, McCarthy was more like a pussycat than a tiger.

If Biden had been forced to agree to an ugly deal, he could have faced a primary challenge to his nomination from the left. As it is, Biden is virtually assured of renomination as the Democratic 2024 presidential candidate.

NZ polls suggest right-wing coalition ahead with election in October

The New Zealand election will be held on October 14. The 120 MPs are elected by proportional representation with a 5% threshold that is waived if a party wins a single-member electorate.

Most polls now have a possible right-wing coalition of National and ACT ahead of Labour (governing) and the Greens, although the gap is close enough in some polls that the Māori party could be decisive (they are likely to win at least one of the seven electorates for those on the Māori roll).

The Kantar Public poll that was taken after the May 18 budget was particularly good for the right, giving National and ACT a 48-42 lead over Labour and the Greens. The last Kantar poll in March had given Labour and the Greens a 47-45 lead.

Spanish election called for July 23 after poor regional results for left

Twelve Spanish regional elections were held last Sunday. The conservative People’s Party (PP) won control of eight regions, the centre-left Socialists two and two are unclear. PP made a total of six gains in control since 2019, five from the Socialists and one from regionalists. There were large vote share increases for PP and the far-right Vox. After these elections, the incumbent Socialist national government announced a national election for July 23, about four months early. Current polling and these regional elections indicate that Spain is likely to be another major European country after Italy last year to fall to the right.

19 comments on “US debt limit deal: passage through Congress”

  1. Dynamic between Vox and People’s Party is an interesting one with the Catalonia independence issue still bubbling.
    Nunez-Feijoo and Abascal will have a more productive dynamic in a right coalition similar to Fratelli/Forza/Lega in Italy rather than the French Front/ Reconquête equivalent
    Note that Trias from the Junts became mayor of Barcelona.

    NZ Labour is toast; the chipmunk is turning into the left equivalent of Bill English

  2. I see the Greeks are going back to polls for a 2nd time this year despite the Centre Right winning increasing their vote (40.7%, up 0.7%) but losing seats (down from 158 to 145, need 151 for majority) a few weeks ago. It is a strange quirk of their electoral system that allowed this to happen.

  3. I’ll be interested if the prediction of Cenk Yughur of TYT is proven correct. Bill voted down by Freedom Caucus followed by demands for further cuts possibly by increasing the $20 billion cut to IRS funding to $40 billion (which is bizarre considering each dollar of IRS funding creates around $6 of revenue, so much for concerns over the deficit). Why the hell did Biden not go with the 14th Amendment instead of indulging in this absurd kabuki theatre?

  4. The story is that the Dems avoided their own sh!tshow by kicking the can. Any left leaning deal on the debt limit is supposed to have been a red flag to Manchin and Sinema. The Dems would have had to bow to Manchins demands and then own whatever came of that.

    So instead we have an even bigger sh!tshow with the majority in the lower house hopelessly and publicly divided.

    The deal struck sux, but seems a fairly honest attempt at compromise between the democrats and the mostly sensible republicans – representing how close congress is.

    So who owns this deal (assuming McCarthy gets it over the line)? I dont see how it is a win for either of them. Certainly wont be a catalyst for rapid improvement in Bidens approval but doubt it will weigh him down either.

  5. I’ll be interested if the prediction of Cenk Yughur of TYT is proven correct.

    Politico is reporting that some senior republicans are on the lines making sure this gets through with minimal embarrassment. It appears Jeffries is going to help with just some minor ‘look at how hopeless they are’ statements that one would expect wont be noticed by the great unwashed.

  6. Hmm, not so sure Adrian’s editorialising on the debt deal bears much scrutiny (in essence arguing that the GOP should have held out for a tougher deal, one which would have unwound many of the Democratic legislative achievement of the last few years). To start with, any such deal would have no buy in from the Dems, meaning that it would have likely died in the Senate and/or been vetoed by Biden. This would have then given Biden the cover to invoke the 14th Amendment (in essence declaring that the debt ceiling itself is unconstitutional) and/or minting a 3T coin to sit in Treasury. To be sure, the Dems normally don’t show much stomach for these sort of end runs, but if the GOP had continued to be unreasonable, they may have had no choice.

  7. I’d also caution against making predictions in NZ based on a single poll result. For a site that claims to specialise in polling, I’m constantly bemused my the willingness of so many on here to make firm predictions based on single polls. But a reminder: a single po0ll might mean something or it might mean nothing, but all it really is a single data point among many. This latest NZ poll might be a harbinger of defeat for NZ Labour, but equally it could simply be an outlier based on a dodgy sample. In any event, the election itself is not until October, and the fat lady is barely out of the dressing room, let alone singing.

  8. AOC is voting against Debt ceiling bill. 🙂

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is planning to vote against the debt limit bill Wednesday as the Treasury Department’s June 5 deadline for a default fast approaches, according to her office.

    The New York lawmaker, one of the highest-profile progressives in Congress, had earlier signaled she would oppose the legislation.

  9. Interesting watching the vote at the moment. About 6 minutes to go until the end of the vote and a lot Dems are holding off voting until late.

  10. Hugoaugogo, the problem with the 14th amendment and other solutions that didn’t involve passing a debt limit increase through Congress, is the US Supreme Court. It’s got a 6-3 right majority. Would they really have allowed Biden to get away with an override of Congress? I discussed the 14th amendment solution briefly in this Conversation article.

  11. Adrian – Biden could then channel his inner Andrew Jackson: “[The Court] has made his decision, now let him enforce it”. The authority of the Supreme Court rides entirely on the relevant players’ willingness to abide by their decisions, but the Court does not have any enforcement mechanisms beyond that. Besides, there’s not even any guarantee that the current Court, as rank partisan as it is, would indeed rule the way you are suggesting. The relevant section of the 14th Amendment reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” It would be interesting to see just how the Court could read that in a way which maintains the debt ceiling, or indeed, how anybody could claim to have standing to challenge any such decision by Biden (ie, who exactly would be “injured” by such a decision?). Now Biden, of course, is an institutionalist at heart, and his preference was always going to be to come to a negotiated outcome with the more sane members of the GOP caucus, but given the stakes, I think it was always fanciful to think that the Freedom Caucus would be able to get even 10% of what they wanted.

  12. So SCOTUS would be perfectly content to act against an Amendment to the US Constitution (14th Amendment)? A high risk strategy I would have thought. Anyway, it seems both the Democrats and Republicans are more than willing to act against the best interests and overwhelming wishes of ordinary Americans. You have to ask why, to consider that with some intensity, particularly in the case of the Democrats. Why do they choose, voluntarily and unnecessarily, to act against the interests of the majority of their people?

  13. Sarah Ferris
    Biggs is not happy that debt deal passed with more Democrats than Republicans

    “We were told they’d never put a bill on the floor that would take more Democrats than Rs to pass. We were told that.”
    11:32 AM · Jun 1, 2023

  14. Biden now has McCarthy right where he wants him, dependent on the Democrats to keep his position. I wouldn’t be surprised if an unwritten part of the deal was that enough Dems would vote for him in any spill for him to keep his job.
    Senile genius

  15. Seadog – Yes, I reckon you’ve got the crux of it. I’d say Biden played his hand pretty well here. He was faced with the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party threatening to blow up the world economy unless they got their way, and Biden was able to work around that to arrive at a situation where comparatively little was given away, and the debt ceiling cliff has been avoided for the rest of this Congress. Adrian might see that as a missed opportunity for the Freedom caucus, but I think most of us are breathing a sigh of relief that common sense prevailed.

  16. Adrian, why do you think the conservative Supreme Court would make a decision that caused a debt default? Their first loyalty is to the ownership class, who don’t want a debt default. Powerful people and corporations would lose an immense amount of financial wealth if the US Government stopped honouring US Treasury bonds.

    Also, if the Supreme Court decided against the president on the matter of invoking the 14th Amendment but the president stood firm in his decision, how exactly would the Supreme Court enforce that decision? Which parts of the executive branch would follow the Supreme Court and not the president in that scenario? And who would the public be more likely to support in that standoff? The conservatives on the Supreme Court wouldn’t be stupid enough to alienate the economic elites and the people for a decision that wouldn’t even be enforced.

    Democrats are cucks. They are squeamish about exercising power for the public good.

  17. Biden is very experienced

    Whilst I disagree certain of his foreign policy, on domestic matters he has no peer

    In regards domestic matters Biden knows exactly what he is doing – and why

    The deferring Democrats support those in need of government support

    The deferring GOP representatives support who – and that numbers some 50% of them by this 314 to 117 vote

    Biden has them where he wants them including by the concessions negotiated by Biden

    As an election beckons

  18. @Nicholas

    If you accept that Biden and his corporate Dems are perfectly happy to see cuts that affect the poor in order to appease their donors it all falls into place. And any idea that Biden is a 4d chessmaster, brilliant negotiator or that he gave the Republicans a good going over is the sort of nonsense that spews from the mouths of the Joe Scarborough’s of the world. The Republicans and the odious Manchin got most of what they wanted and fuck the poor, fuck the environment. What a disaster, to be repeated in a couple of years time.

  19. Bellwether, I agree. Joe Biden is a corporate Democrat, not a progressive. He spent his Senate career representing the financial sector. He has long supported cuts to Social Security spending. His economic policy views overlap significantly with the GOP. There isn’t a lot of difference between corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans on fiscal policy and the scope of public goods.

    It isn’t surprising that he is so unpopular. Seventy percent of Americans don’t want him to run for a second term. He doesn’t fight for the people and he doesn’t have the cognitive capacity to do the job. He is a weak president who gives Donald Trump a reasonable chance of winning the general election in 2024.

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