By Lisa Mascaro and Aamer Madhani - The Associated Press
The agreement to raise the debt ceiling passes its first litmus test on Tuesday in the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives, which will analyze it and submit it to a vote to be sent to the Plenary a few days before the federal government runs out of money to meet its payments in early June.
President Joe Biden said he felt "good" with the terms of the agreement reached with the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.
Biden spent much of the Memorial Day holiday weekend on the phone, talking to lawmakers from both parties and seeking the support needed to get the pact back.
The Capitol in Washington on May 30Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
A sector of the hard wing of the Republican Party criticizes the agreement for not including the deep spending cuts it demanded, while liberal congressmen decry some changes introduced, such as new work requirements for food stamps.
"I feel very good about it," Biden told reporters Monday as he left Washington, D.C., for his home in Delaware. "I've talked to a lot of people and I feel good," he said. Among the people he spoke with was Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime partner in major bipartisan deals who has been left out of it.
To progressive Democrats who expressed concern about the deal, he delivered a simple message: "Talk to me."
As lawmakers evaluate the 99-page bill, few are expected to be fully satisfied with the final outcome. But Biden and McCarthy are hoping to get majority support from the political center, a rarity in a divided Congress, to unite in the vote and avoid a catastrophic federal default.
[The government extends to June 5 the deadline for the 'default' if there is no agreement on the debt ceiling]
McCarthy acknowledged that the hard-fought compromise with Biden will not be "100% of what everybody wants," as he leads a slim majority in the House and needs hard-line conservatives.
Faced with possible rejection from his ranks, McCarthy will have to count on more than half of the Democrats and half of the Republicans in the House to push the bill through.
Overall, this package is a compromise that will impose some spending reductions for the next two years along with a suspension of the debt limit until January 2025, pushing the volatile political issue beyond next year's presidential election. Raising the debt limit, which currently stands at $31 trillion, will allow the Treasury to continue borrowing to pay bills already incurred.
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Political issues are the most objectionable among legislators. Liberal lawmakers fought hard, but couldn't stop new work requirements for people ages 50 to 54 who receive government food assistance and are otherwise fit without dependents. Republicans demanded it as part of the deal, but some say changes to the food stamp program aren't enough.
Republicans also pushed for tighter work requirements for health care and other benefits; Biden refused to accept them.
On the other hand, questions have been raised about an unexpected provision that essentially grants congressional approval to the Mountain Valley pipeline, a natural gas project important to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, opposed by many Democrats and others.
[Republican demand to tighten federal aid requirements hampers debt ceiling negotiation]
At the same time, conservative Republicans, including those in the House Freedom Caucus, say the budget cut isn't enough to command their support.
"No one claiming to be a conservative could justify a YES vote," Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., wrote on Twitter.
This 'deal' is crazy," said Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C. "I'm not going to vote to break our country," he added.
Taken together, the package would keep spending virtually flat for next year, while allowing increases for military and veterans accounts.
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The Rules Committee has three members of the influential Freedom Caucus who could very well try to block the package's progress, forcing McCarthy to rely on Democrats to ensure the bill can be sent to the floor.
The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday and send the bill to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with McConnell, are working toward quick passage by the end of the week.
Senators, who have stood aside for much of the negotiations between Biden and McCarthy of the House, have begun to intervene more forcefully in the debate.
Some senators insist on introducing amendments to reshape the package from both the left and the right. This could require lengthy discussions that would delay final approval of the deal.
[Earning $100,000 a year is no longer enough in many parts of the U.S., study finds]
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine is "very disappointed" by the provision that gives the green light to the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, he said in a statement. He plans to table an amendment to remove the provision from the package.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham complained that increases in military spending are not enough. "I will use every power available to me in the Senate to vote on an amendment that undoes this catastrophe for defense," he tweeted.
But at this point it seems unlikely that changes will be introduced with so little time ahead. Congress and the White House are racing to meet Monday's deadline, now less than a week away. That's when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the U.S. would run out of cash and face an unprecedented debt default that would almost certainly crush the U.S. economy and spread across the globe, as the world's confidence in the dollar's stability and the country's leadership would be called into question.