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Yesterday the House Rules Committee advanced a bill to raise the debt ceiling, but with no Democratic support. From the New York Post:

The GOP-controlled committee voted 7-6 to move the 99-page piece of legislation to the House floor, with no Democrats joining Republicans in support.

All reports I've read seem to indicate that with McCarthy and Biden coming to an agreement, the mainstream members of each party will support the bill when it comes to a vote on the floor. Later in the same article Hakeem Jeffries, the House Minority Leader, heavily implies that the Democrats will vote for the bill.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told reporters Tuesday that “Democrats are committed to making sure we do our part in avoiding default.” “My expectation is House Republicans will keep their commitment to produce at least two-thirds of their conference which is approximately 150 votes,” he said.

Why then would the Democrats in the House Rules committee not vote to advance the bill to the floor? If one more Republican had voted against it then the Democrats could have easily been blamed for the fallout if it didn't advance, which seems a large risk for a bill that the party intends to support on the floor.

Edited to add: Even more interestingly, three of the four Democratic HR Committee members (Scanlon, Neguse, and Fernandez) voted NO in committee but AYE on the floor.

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    Progressives consider the compromises not progressive enough. The clue might be in the particular leanings and affiliations of the Dems on that committee. May 31, 2023 at 17:21
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica You're right that all of the Dems on the HR Committee are a part of the Progressive Caucus. I didn't realize it was so large - almost half of sitting House Dems! Does this mean that the debt ceiling bill passing on the floor is not as certain as it seemed?
    – David K
    May 31, 2023 at 17:35
  • I didn't know they were all Progs. Ah, well, if you link to where you found their affiliation to the Progs, then you could post that as a self-answer. Not impressed with this lot, looking quite as clueless as the Gaetzes of this world, playing games for partisan reasons. I dunno about wider vote, but there's probably enough common sense members on both sides to see it through, putting all Progs on the Dem side of an important committee was a tactical mistake by Dem leadership, IMHO. May 31, 2023 at 18:07
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    @DavidK No one is sure that this is a "done deal". There are far-right conservatives who think it's a disaster that the bill doesn't have a specific debt limit, just a time limit. And there are progressives who think that Biden made too many concessions. And the general Dem belief was that there shouldn't be any conditions at all. Neither side really expected that the result of the negotiation would just be rubber-stamped.
    – Barmar
    May 31, 2023 at 21:25
  • FWIW, the New York Post may not make for the most reliable of sources, though in this case they got it right. Jun 1, 2023 at 6:46

2 Answers 2

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There are 4 Dems on this House Committee. They are all members of the Progressive Caucus .

Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-MA) Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández(D-NM)

Now, as I said before, the Progressives object to negotiating with the Republicans and cutting some of their preferred programs.

She cited the bill's welfare work requirements and energy permitting reforms as examples of provisions progressives are displeased with. "There will be real harmful impacts for poor people and working people," she said, adding that members have “serious concerns about the environmental justice implications of this bill."

But it might be even more instructive to see what the lead Dem Committee member, McGovern had to say:

WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman James P. McGovern, Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, slammed the GOP for lying about SNAP work requirements during the Republican debt crisis negotiations so they can go after food assistance programs that working families rely on.

“Maybe if [Speaker Kevin McCarthy] weren’t so busy giving speeches to Wall Street bankers, he’d know most people on food assistance are children, seniors, or people with disabilities,” said Congressman McGovern on the House Floor. “Maybe if he spoke to an able-bodied adult on food assistance, he’d know they aren’t sitting on the couch because they’re out working—they just make so little they qualify for a measly six-dollar-a-day benefit they use to buy food.

Now, unlike the other answer, I believe they are playing with fire wrt public opinion. In the past government shutdowns, the Reps have generally loaded the gun and pulled the trigger. I.e. they manufactured the crisis and were too intransigent to avoid a shutdown. For which they got blamed by Jane Public.

This time the Reps have loaded the gun, but if the deal goes South due to the Progressives, they will have pulled the trigger, not the Republicans.

The public, once it wakes up to another government shutdown, will look to who was the last group involved. Not negotiating, as Biden started out to do? The Dems. Scuppering it, via the behavior asked about in this Q? The Dems.

Some observations:

  • The US debt ceiling is, as it exists, a pretty silly system. The time to worry about debt is when you pass a budget.

  • 2/3 of Fed expenditures are entitlement, by law: pensions, Medicare/aid. Off-budget, essentially. Of the rest 1/6 is Defense, 1/6 non-Defense, things like education and welfare.

  • So the Reps, after never cutting spending, but cutting taxes (Trump 2017, heavily warned by CBO as a deficit bomb) act as if they had nothing to with it, want to ring-fence Defense and want to concentrate all the cuts on the remaining 1/6th.

  • Nevertheless the US is living above its means and needs to get a grip. Supposedly the unhappy compromise here is rated $1.5T by CBO. A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you're talking real money.

Most of the estimated reduction in the deficit from the deal would come from caps on discretionary spending other than defense — a relatively small slice of the overall federal budget

The agreement adds new work requirements for older people receiving food stamps, but also adds new exemptions from work requirements for veterans, people experiencing homelessness and young people recently out of foster care.

CBO projects the number of people made eligible for food stamps by the new exemptions would outweigh the number who might be dropped from the rolls.

Still, among the dumb, Rep-insisted things in that compromise:

A plan to cut $1.4 billion in spending on the Internal Revenue Service, for example, would reduce tax collections by an estimated $2.3 billion — for a net loss to the government of $900 million.

The actual loss in tax revenue could be much larger, since the Biden administration is planning to "repurpose" another $20 billion of the $80 billion that had been set aside for the IRS as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

If I understand correctly, this cut will allow safer tax evasion for tax shirkers.

So, no, not a great compromise and, no not driven by sane budgeting either. But still an irresponsible move by the Progressive members, albeit for much nobler reasons than the Freedom Caucus on the even more daft opposite side.

Apparently the thought of the more mainstream folk as well:

The House voted to pass Speaker Kevin McCarthy's debt ceiling deal with President Joe Biden tonight on a 314-117 vote.

CNN

The final tally for the vote was 314 to 117. There were 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats who voted for the bill and 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats who voted against it.

Suspending the debt limit through 2025 takes the threat of default off table until after the presidential election. In addition to addressing the debt limit, the bill caps non-defense spending, expands work requirements for some food stamp recipients and claws back some Covid-19 relief funds, among other policy provisions.

p.s. In addition to all that, this rejection by some members of his own party makes Biden look weak. They'd be better served working behind the scenes trying to convince him to let someone else run in 2024.

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    Whenever only one side compromises you lock yourself into a position of weakness. This is the stance of the progressive caucus. That Dems have lost control even while in power because they feel (rightly or wrongly) only their side compromises under these sorts of pressures.
    – Jontia
    Jun 1, 2023 at 7:36
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    Interestingly, three of the four Dem HR Committee members (Scanlon, Neguse, and Fernandez) voted no in committee but yes on the floor.
    – David K
    Jun 1, 2023 at 11:59
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    With regard to this rejection by some members of his own party makes Biden look weak. I disagree. More than half of the Progressive Caucus (which has a history of disliking Biden) voted for the bill. On the other hand, the significantly larger number of Republican votes against the bill make McCarthy look weak. Jun 1, 2023 at 13:53
  • "The time to worry about debt is when you pass a budget." Theoretically true, but this assumes you actually are passing a budget rather than some last-minute CRs that no one has time to debate, amend, or, in many cases, even read or understand. At least one good thing about the compromise bill is that it requires those budget bills to actually be passed or else automatic cuts take place that neither side want.
    – reirab
    Jun 1, 2023 at 16:26
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    @JonathanReez Not what CBO says:. The IRS’s ROIs ramp up over three years as staff become trained and fully productive, arrive at the peak level, and then stay there. In recent years, peak ROIs have ranged from 5 to 9. That is, a $1 increase in spending on the IRS’s enforcement activities results in $5 to $9 of increased revenues. And you ask enough economic Qs here to know about diminishing returns : no one would believe infinite spending returns infinite revenue, but US is nowhere near that point. Jun 1, 2023 at 18:42
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I can't answer specifically for those particular Democrats, but from listening to progressives, interviews on the PBS News Hour and so on, over the past few weeks I can give a general Democratic position, which is: there's no reason to negotiate. Republicans are threatening to shut down the government unless they get stuff? Biden should call their bluff, and whatever happens, he wins, the country wins and Democrats win. Again, these aren't my opinions -- they're what some Democrats are saying about why they should refuse any kind of deal:

Some background: the Debt Ceiling issue is (or was) regarded as hostage-taking due to a loophole. For decades Congress had budget bills deciding how to spend money, and then as a formality, raised the debt ceiling to pay for it. A decent comparison is paying a credit card bill. The money has been spent, discussions about whether $1,200 Taylor Swift tickets are worth it have been had. The time to complain was when you spent the money and when you spend it next. Plus, you have to pay the bill eventually. Paying late is just wasting money.

On to reasons: back with Clinton the Republicans did this same thing, and the Democrats never made a deal, and the government was actually shut down -- the thing we're so worried about happening now has already happened once before. People felt the pain and Republicans got blamed for it. So why not let the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot again? That wasn't the same thing -- not passing a Continuing Resolution vs. not raising the Debt Ceiling, but I've been hearing Democrats compare them as being pretty much the same thing.

Next, morally (for lack of a better word), a serious country should never be having this debate. It makes us look like idiots shutting down every few years, wastes a bunch of money when we re-open, and makes countries trying to do business with us think China might be a better partner. The best way to stop this nonsense from happening every few years is for the President to say we're not having that discussion.

Next, it's terrible negotiation. The Republicans are asking for budget stuff. Well, in a real budget deal the Democrats have the President and the Senate. The deal should be in their favor. But this deal is 100% in the Republicans' favor. It's not as if the Republicans ran on a platform "shut down America -- no Social Security, medicare, veteran's care... ". They want to raise the debt ceiling, too.

And then practically, the shut-down can be avoided. Just like Reagan, Biden can find the money for a while. Then he can go with the "full faith and credit shall not be questioned" to say he's constitutionally required to pretend the debt ceiling has been raised. He can go the $1,000,000,000,000 coin route. Once Americans feel the effects of a shutdown, far-out things start to seem like good ideas (progressives are actually angry that Biden ruled this stuff out, but he can still do them).

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    "On to reasons: back with Clinton the Republicans did this same thing, and the Democrats never made a deal, and the government was actually shut down -- the thing we're so worried about happening now has already happened once before." The shutdown in the Clinton term was because of not reaching a budget deal, not the debt ceiling. Jun 1, 2023 at 3:49
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    -1: we've never not raised the debt ceiling in time. They came close under obama, but the budget standoff w/Clinton is apples to oranges. The risk here is not a shutdown, it's a lost of investor confidence.
    – dandavis
    Jun 1, 2023 at 5:22
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    -1 for the $1,000,000,000,000 coin. For the rest, can't say I agree with it, but everyone's entitled to their opinion. But that coin is pure gimmick and mentioning it in a serious manner makes for a non-serious answer, IMHO. Remember Truss The Brief? Markets don't particularly like silly shenanigans indicating bad faith. Jun 1, 2023 at 6:54
  • @dandavis The discussion during the Clinton/Gingrich situation was also about a loss of confidence, very similar to the one now. The US was even downgraded slightly as a result. But the point is, Democrats, right-or-wrong, can point to that and say "we come out ahead". Jun 1, 2023 at 11:05
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    The government shutting down which has happened after the Clinton years as well is not the same thing as not paying our debts.
    – Joe W
    Jun 2, 2023 at 12:19

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