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The House is gearing up for a debt limit package vote as soon as this evening that will be the toughest test yet for Speaker Kevin McCarthy of moving major legislation with only a four-seat GOP majority.
McCarthy (R-Calif.) made several late revisions to solidify party support overnight, moving up the deadline for expanded work requirements, rescinding additional funding from last year’s tax and climate law (Public Law 117-169) and dropping language that eliminated three tax incentives on carbon oxide sequestration and biofuels.
It’s not clear if the changes McCarthy approved will be enough to get the bill passed.
If they are, it’s a sign of how much leverage individual members have when it comes to must-pass bills and could nudge the White House closer to negotiations. If not, the threat of a default on the national debt will becomes more urgent and it would be a major setback for McCarthy early in his speakership.
Here are members to watch:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.)
Gaetz, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump who led efforts early this Congress against electing McCarthy speaker, is once again proving to be an obstacle.
“We’re deeply concerned about the $32 trillion dollar debt,” Gaetz (R) said on CNN Tuesday night.
He was one of the handful of Republicans who refused to help raise the debt limit under Trump.
Gaetz also has pushed for starting the expanded work requirements in 2024 rather than 2025. Earlier in the week, he called it “an essential element to get my vote.”
Although leadership made the change last night, it still might not be enough. Gaetz told reporters he was still concerns about the changes after leaving a meeting with lawmakers this morning.
Rep. George Santos (N.Y.)
Santos, the resume-fabricating lawmaker from Long Island, is someone his party would rather ignore, but the narrow margins are forcing the GOP leadership to hear out a member best known for dishonesty.
Santos (R) previously said he would oppose raising the debt limit and has pushed for stricter work requirements. He introduced an amendment during the debate in the Rules Committee to increase the required number of weekly hours worked to 30 from 20.
It’s unclear whether McCarthy’s concessions to have the work requirements begin in 2024 rather than waiting for 2025 will be enough to move Santos into the yes column. The speaker notably has been cautious in taking a hard stance against Santos’ fabrications, knowing on tight votes likes this one he’ll need the New Yorker’s support.
Democrats would welcome the chance to paint GOP leaders as making concessions to Santos.
Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.)
Biggs (R), a member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, continues to raise concerns the Republican bill doesn’t go far enough in reducing the national debt. He told reporters on Tuesday night that he is “leaning no” and doesn’t see a way leadership could get him to a yes.
“We might have gone beyond the place where we could actually effectuate that,” he said.
In addition to concerns about the spending itself, Biggs told reporters he was “pissed off” the bill did not go through the regular committee process. The bill was released by House GOP leaders last week who offered the latest changes early this morning at the House Rules Committee.
“I’m really upset about that,” he said. “If we took it through regular order, then everybody could push for some changes. That’s what we should have” done.
Rep. Tim Burchett (Tenn.)
Burchett (R) has been a firm no on raising the debt limit long before the current battle. During the Trump administration, Burchett was one several House Republicans who have opposed all debt ceiling increases.
Current attempts to change his mind haven’t gone well.
“I had a meeting and they didn’t show, so I’m definitely a no now,” he said Tuesday evening. He declined to say who ghosted him, but confirmed it was a member of the GOP leadership.
Even if the meeting had happened, it might not have alleviated his main concern – the $32 trillion in debt.
“We’re not doing anything about it,” he said.
Rep. Victoria Spartz (Indiana)
Spartz ( R) said Wednesday afternoon she was still undecided on the debt limit package and wanted to see a committee to examine Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
“If we’re going to save Medicare for seniors, which we need to, we’re promising people, then we need to start dealing with fraud and abuse in the system,” she said before heading into McCarthy’s office. She emerged a few minutes later, telling reporters she was still undecided. Spartz is not running for re-election.
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org