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WH to Dems: The budget compromise could have been much worse
President Biden and his deputies worked the phones over the long weekend to mollify the frustrated Democrats ahead of a vote this week to raise the debt limit.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
House members this evening will return to Washington to approve a series of innocuous bills that will give party leaders the first face-to-face chance to whip support for the deal President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy brokered over the weekend to avoid a first-ever default and set federal funding priorities for the next two years.
The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon and finalize the parameters of the debate ahead of a final vote on Wednesday evening. If this Congress is any indication though, you know all of this is subject to change.
Across the Capitol, senators will process nominations while the House passes the budget agreement.
The Senate could fast-track passage of the bill with unanimous consent from all senators but since that’s all but certain not to happen, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told senators in a letter on Sunday to prepare for the rare-but-dreaded weekend vote series. This is unlikely to garner any sympathy from House members who had to cut their week-long recess short to come back and take care of business. (Members will be cut loose for the rest of the week after the Wednesday vote series.)
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced his support of the bill and called on the chamber to pass it without any shenanigans, a request the most conservative members of his conference will probably ignore.
Congress has until June 5 to pass the 99-page bill and send it to the president for his signature before the government runs out of cash to pay its bills.
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Given the growing number of House conservatives who are expected to oppose the bill, House Democrats will be counted on to make up the difference.
Since the agreement was announced, the White House has been hard at work selling it to members who feel wary about voting for a compromise bill that many feel rewards House Republicans for weaponizing the debt limit in exchange for policy concessions that wouldn’t pass Congress through the normal legislative process.
During a Sunday afternoon virtual briefing with budget director Shalanda Young, top Biden aide Steve Ricchetti, economic advisor Aviva Aron-Dine, and climate advisor John Podesta tried to soothe these anxieties with a focus on the extreme proposals they kept out of the bill. The White House also contends that where we are is where we would have ended up later this fall when government funding expires. The difference is now the administration has made it harder for congressional Republicans to force a government shutdown to force more concessions.
Young, Aron-Dine, and Podesta on Monday afternoon held three additional briefings for members concerned about the substance of the bill with three more scheduled Tuesday afternoon. And the trio along with Ricchetti will join the House Democrats’ in-person caucus meeting on Wednesday morning ahead of votes to answer last-minute questions ahead of votes.
As an indication of the stakes for President Biden, he made whip calls over the weekend to members and will continue to do so until Wednesday’s votes, a White House official said.
When asked what he would say to Democrats, including House progressives, who have reservations about the compromise bill, Biden said, “Talk to me” but declined to disclose what he would tell them to secure their votes.
Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on CNN on Sunday that she was undecided on how she would vote and that Democratic leadership shouldn’t take the 100-plus votes the CPC represents for granted.
Biden told reporters he hadn’t had the chance to speak to her yet and was unsure if he could get progressives on board.
Not all Democrats are on the fence though.
Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who until this year was the number-two House Democrat, said in a statement on Sunday that while not a desirable position to be in, it’s up to Democrats to once again step in and steer America from economic calamity.
“The failure to do so would have catastrophic impacts on every American, every family, and the global economy,” Hoyer said. “We cannot allow the American people to shoulder the dire consequences of Republicans’ inability and unwillingness to govern.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a close Biden ally, said he believed the agreement was the best the White House could reach due to the harmful demands of House Republicans.
“To my colleagues who have serious misgivings about this deal, I say this is far better than defaulting.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said that the compromise is worth supporting because Speaker McCarthy didn’t get any of the major concessions they demanded.
“It’s pretty clear President Biden kept most of the reckless things that Republicans were seeking for out of this agreement.”
And the leadership team for New Democrat Coalition — a group of almost 100 center-left members — led by Chairwoman Annie Kuster has backed the agreement as well.
“Despite a divided government, President Biden has achieved a bipartisan agreement that will save our country from default until 2025 and protect our nation from economic collapse, while also preventing cuts to key programs that millions of Americans rely upon,” they said on Monday in a statement. “New Dems will remain in close consultation with our partners in the administration to ensure that this bill gets to President Biden’s desk without unnecessary delay to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.”
Ultimately, the president feels the rest of the caucus will follow suit.
“There is no reason it shouldn’t get done by the 5th,” he said. “I’m confident that we’ll get a vote in both Houses and we’ll see.”
The agreement suspends the debt limit through January 2025, which means the country won’t face the specter of default again until after the next presidential election. And as the Treasury Department did when the US hit the debt limit this past January, it can use “extraordinary measures,” accounting maneuvers to continue to meet the government’s financial obligations for several months after the suspension expires.
It also caps funding for domestic funding for the next two years, unadjusted for inflation this year and with a one-percent increase in 2025. The agreement reinvests billions of dollars from the IRS to offset deep cuts to social programs to keep funding virtually flat next year. Republicans were able to recoup billions in unspent COVID-19 funding during the negotiations as well.
Funding for the military and veterans’ programs will increase by three percent, which meets President Biden’s request in his budget proposal.
Some Senate Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina think the deal underfunds the Pentagon. But Biden dismissed this criticism: “Obviously, if there’s any existential need for additional funding, I have no doubt we’ll be able to get it,” he told reporters on Monday.
White House negotiators were able to protect cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
But the agreement makes it harder for states to exempt families from the work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to low-income households with kids.
Additionally, it burdens childless people under age 54 with new work requirements that limit the number of months they can receive SNAP benefits within a defined period, up from 49 years old. Veterans, unhoused people, and people transitioning out of foster care are protected from the work requirements, which are set to sunset in 2030. This could result in an expansion of SNAP even with the higher age threshold.
“Specifically, the agreement will exempt from time limits people living in shelters, the unsheltered, [and] individuals temporarily living in someone else's home,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge said. “This means the agreement will provide meaningful [and] much-needed support for Americans who are homeless [and] housing insecure.
The bill also protects the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act and codifies the president’s student loan debt relief program, two top House GOP targets in the negotiations.
“Despite Republicans’ efforts to end targeted student debt relief and move up our planned end to the payment pause, we will ensure a smooth return to repayment process,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on Saturday. “The deal also protects our ability to pause student loan payments should that be necessary in future emergencies.” (Payments are expected to resume 60 days on June 30 or after the Supreme Court rules on whether the plan is constitutional, whichever comes first.)
The deal also includes reforms to expedite the review of permits for energy projects.
But climate activists are frustrated that a provision to prioritize the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline both Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have lobbied for, is included in the bill.
Supercreator has learned that negotiators viewed the provision as a hill not worth dying on since construction of the pipeline is finished and it has survived most legal challenges and regulatory hurdles.
Politically speaking, it doesn’t hurt to extend a peace offering to Manchin as he’s grown antagonistic towards the administration in recent months and Senate Democrats look to pacify him in hopes he runs for re-election next year in his ruby-red state.
Nonetheless, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia opposes the MVP and is expected to introduce an amendment to strip it from the legislation. (Mark Warner, Virginia’s other senator, opposes the MVP but plans to vote for the bill because it raises the debt limit.)
“No one got everything they want,” President Biden said on Sunday evening. “But that’s the responsibility of governing.”
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TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will leave New Castle, Delaware at 10 a.m. to return to the White House.
Biden’s week ahead:
Wednesday: The president will travel to El Paso County, Colorado.
Thursday: Biden will give the commencement speech at the Air Force Academy in El Paso County before traveling back to the White House.
Friday: The president will attend the Friday Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington.
Vice President Kamala Harris will leave Washington, DC at 12:45 p.m. to travel to New York City to speak at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at 6:45 p.m. She will return to DC at 9:10 p.m.
Dr. Biden will leave Washington, DC at 8:30 p.m. to travel to Amman, Jordan for a six-day that includes stops in Egypt, Morocco, and Portugal.
The House is in at 2 p.m. and with first votes expected at 6:30 p.m. and last votes at 7 p.m.
The Senate is in at 3 p.m. and will vote at 5:30 p.m. to confirm Darrel James Papillion to be US District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
THEY DID THAT
LSU women’s basketball star Angel Reese presented team jerseys to the president and first lady during the team’s visit to the White House.
Related: White House budget chief Shalanda Young and Republican Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana — two Pelican State natives and matching wits to reach a deal on the debt limit — set aside partisanship to attend the LSU celebration.
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