Some Democrats don't like Biden and McCarthy's debt-ceiling bill — but they'll vote for it because 'the macro alternative is absolutely indigestible'
- Many Democratic lawmakers are unhappy with the debt-ceiling bill that just passed the House.
- But some of them will vote for the bill anyway because they say a default would be far worse.
A lot of Democratic lawmakers don't like President Joe Biden's and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy's debt-ceiling bill. But they'll probably vote for it anyway.
On Wednesday night, the House easily passed Biden and McCarthy's Fiscal Responsibility Act with a bipartisan vote of 314-117. The bill would suspend the debt ceiling until 2025 accompanied about $1.5 trillion in spending cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Those cuts included new work requirements on federal programs like SNAP and codifying the end of the student-loan payment pause — and while many conservative lawmakers wished the cuts were more extensive, Democrats were upset any cuts were included at all.
"The best thing to be said about the current deal on the debt ceiling is that it could have been much worse," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a Wednesday statement explaining why he cannot "in good conscience" vote for the bill.
Other Democrats feel the same — but fear a default on the nation's debt would be worse than signing the bipartisan debt-ceiling bill into law. Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin told Politico that "this is the weirdest legislation that anybody has ever been asked to vote on since I got here. Nobody seems to support all of it. Everyone has problems with parts of it. But the macro alternative is absolutely indigestible."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told Politico that she's not a fan of the bill, but she's considering which outcome would be worse.
"We have to weigh the consequences of default against the pain that Republicans are trying to impose on hungry Americans, students, our climate and the Republicans' constant enthusiasm for protecting billionaire tax cheats," she said.
As Insider has previously reported, a default on the nation's debt would be unprecedented and catastrophic. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned McCarthy that the US could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as June 5. Once that happens, popular federal programs like Social Security, Medicare, and SNAP could be among the first to run out of money, according to a Bipartisan Policy Center analysis.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have recognized the potentially devastating impacts of a default. While many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus voted against the legislation, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, acknowledged that if some of the Caucus members' votes were needed, "we're going to work as a team to make sure that we prevent default."
Rep. Ro Khanna similarly said that "the Democrats should supply the votes needed to get to 218, but we don't have to supply any more than that."
The Senate began debate on the debt-ceiling legislation on Thursday and needs to act quickly to get it to Biden's desk before the June 5 deadline.
"President Biden and Speaker McCarthy's agreement will protect the economy and eliminate the threat of a catastrophic default. I support this bipartisan agreement," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter. "Nobody's getting all they want—but it takes default off the table and protects key investments we've made."
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