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House passes bill to rein in executive power, implement work requirements for welfare

By Sarah May
|
April 27, 2023

In a significant victory for Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20), the lower chamber on Wednesday passed the debt ceiling bill he says will limit executive power and slash government spending, doing so by a narrow 217-215 margin, as Fox News reports.

As was widely anticipated, not a single House Democrat voted in support of the measure, and four Republicans also stood in opposition to the bill, though they did so for different reasons than their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

McCarthy Heralds Bill's Passage

In McCarthy's estimation, passage of the so-called “Limit, Save, Grow Act” should serve as a catalyst for negotiations with the White House over the debt ceiling, though Biden continues to stand firm in his unwillingness to engage with the GOP due to his insistence that the debt limit be raised without any attendant conditions.

“We've done our job. The president said, 'Oh I'm not gonna talk to him till he presents a plan.' Not only do we have a plan, we passed it,” McCarthy declared.

During a press conference following the vote, the speaker stated, “We have lifted the debt ceiling, so nobody could worry about whether the debt ceiling is going to get lifted, we did it. The Democrats have not.”

Indicating what he believes is the simplest route to sidestepping a debt limit crisis predicted to occur somewhere between June and September in the absence of legislative action, McCarthy added, “The president wants to make sure the debt ceiling is going to be lifted? Sign this bill.”

Incremental Increases Only

As McCarthy explained to Fox News host Sean Hannity, the Republican-backed measure raises the debt limit, but does so only one year at a time.

The speaker contends that the bill's provisions will produce savings of more than $4.8 trillion over a 10-year span.

“What this bill is, it's 'Limit, Save, Grow' – you want to limit the ability for government to grow so fast like it did under Democrats going forward,” McCarthy noted. “So we cap the growth at 1% each year for the next ten. We save money by being smart.”

McCarthy continued, “That...billions of dollars sitting out there [from] COVID [relief that was] never spent – we claw that back so the American taxpayer can save the money. We put in work requirements to help people get jobs to move forward; help our supply chain and get our country moving again.”

Eleventh-Hour Concessions

The final bill was reportedly the product of internal GOP negotiations that went into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, as CNBC reports.

One area of contention within the Republican caucus was that of biofuel tax credits, which were originally poised for elimination, but were ultimately saved by lawmakers from Iowa and surrounding states, who fought to retain them.

“Having successfully amended the bill to protect funding for these tax credits, our delegation will vote for this legislation, which is a starting point to avoid a default and cut wasteful spending,” read a statement from the Iowa House delegation, which is comprised entirely of Republicans, as Fox News noted.

The outlet noted that another faction within the GOP pressured McCarthy to hasten the timeline for implementation of work requirements for adult Americans receiving Medicaid or food stamps, something to which he agreed in the end.

Ball in Biden's Court

Following the successful vote on the measure, Republicans in the House made no bones about their position that the pressure to act is now squarely on Biden's shoulders, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (NY-21) stating, “We are the only chamber that has done our job. [Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)] needs to get to the negotiating table, as does President Joe Biden.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Majority Leader Steve Scalise (LA-01), who stated, as Fox News further noted, “The negotiations need to happen on the Democrat side – in the Senate in the White House – not in the Republican-led House, because we had these negotiations and came up with a bill that saves taxpayers money and grows the economy. At the end of the day, it's President Biden who can no longer sit on the sidelines.”

As CNBC indicates, however, there appears to be little change in tone from the White House this week, with Biden's Office of Management and Budget calling the bill “a reckless attempt to extract extreme concessions as a condition for the United States simply paying the bills it has already incurred.”

“The president has been clear that he will not accept such attempts at hostage-taking” the statement added, and Biden has vowed to veto the measure even if it were to somehow gain approval in the Senate – something most observers deem all but impossible. Whether and how the apparent stalemate might be broken is something that remains to be seen.