The White House and the Republicans have agreed in principle to raise the US debt ceiling and avert a default, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said. Image Credit: AFP

Washington: Getting a US debt-limit deal is one thing. Overcoming entrenched political divisions and time-consuming procedural hurdles to pass the legislation before a June 5 default deadline is another challenge altogether.

The deal struck Saturday night by President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy offers a lot for the two parties not to like, from expanded work requirements for food stamps opposed by Democrats to higher spending levels than conservatives demanded.

What's in the debt ceiling deal Biden, McCarthy agreed? Here's what we know so far

With just over a week until the US risks running out of cash to pay its bills, the two leaders now must convince enough members of their respective parties that the agreement hashed out by a small group of negotiators is a better deal than the global economic consequences of default.

A time-consuming, last-minute revision or a failure on the House floor risks a market dive, as happened when the 2008 bank bailout legislation failed to pass.

McCarthy has said he'd abide by a 72-hour rule to allow lawmakers to review legislation and is planning a House vote on Wednesday.


In the Senate, any one lawmaker can tie up legislation and force procedural votes. Utah Republican Mike Lee has already said he would do just that if he doesn't like spending levels in the bill.

That leaves little room for failure "- or time for revisions "- if Congress is to pass the legislation before June 5, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's revised X-date.

'Severe Challenge' to pass House

Republican Patrick McHenry, one of McCarthy's chief negotiators, acknowledged as much on Saturday, saying it would be a "severe challenge" to get the bill passed by the deadline.

While Biden and McCarthy are managing the clock, they also need to manage their party's caucuses in each chamber.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell will be tasked with mobilizing arm-twisters to convince the flanks.

But the deal ultimately belongs to Biden and McCarthy, who will have to cobble together a coalition of centrists to support it.

Not everyone will be happy

The two-year budget deal cuts far less spending than the $4.8 trillion in cuts the House put on the table at the start of talks. It also gives heartburn to progressives, who already have agitated that Biden hasn't been vocal enough on the deal.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during a news conference after President Joe Biden and McCarthy reached an "agreement in principle" to resolve the looming debt crisis on Saturday, May 27, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington Image Credit: AP

"I don't think everybody is going to be happy at the end of the day," McCarthy told reporters this week. "Is it everything I wanted? No."

About three dozen members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have already signaled they won't support a deal that falls short of their cost-cutting and other demands. They've demanded McCarthy "hold the line."

"Are we going to tuck tail, take the first exit ramp off and walk away?" Freedom Caucus member Chip Roy said on the House floor on Thursday.

Another conservative, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, was more blunt about what would happen if the deal wasn't to his liking. "It's war," he warned in a Saturday tweet.

Not helping matters for McCarthy is former President Donald Trump, to whom many of these conservatives are loyal. Trump, who has been in regular contact with the speaker, has said that the US should default rather than accept a bad deal.

It is an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone. And, the agreement protects my and Congressional Democrats’ key priorities and legislative accomplishments.

- US President Joe Biden

Democratic opposition

Jeffries will have his own challenge getting 106 or more Democrats to back the deal, even with Biden's imprimatur on it.

Democrats like Rosa DeLauro, the senior member on the Appropriations Committee, have complained publicly about being sidelined and have condemned any cuts to social programs as "unacceptable." Congressional Progressive Caucus head Pramila Jayapal said there would be protests in the streets if a deal cut social services.

The expanded work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could pose a challenge for Jeffries, who has called such requirements a "non-starter" for House Democrats.

The arm-twisting challenge is exacerbated for House leaders because most lawmakers are out of town for a holiday weekend and not due to return until Monday night or Tuesday morning.

"That's always more difficult when they are away," McCarthy acknowledged.

Assuming the House passes the bill on the first try, it'll head to the Senate around mid-week. There, days of procedural days are likely if Lee makes good on his threat to hold things up. That easily takes voting right into the weekend, and the US right to the brink.

Debt ceiling deal: Quotes from the announcement and reactions to the news

"Earlier this evening, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement in principle.

"It is an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone. And, the agreement protects my and Congressional Democrats' key priorities and legislative accomplishments.

"The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want. That's the responsibility of governing.

"And, this agreement is good news for the American people, because it prevents what could have been a catastrophic default and would have led to an economic recession, retirement accounts devastated, and millions of jobs lost.

"Over the next day, our negotiating teams will finalize legislative text and the agreement will go to the United States House and Senate. I strongly urge both chambers to pass the agreement right away."


"I just got off the phone with the President - I talked to him twice today - and after weeks of negotiations, we have come to an agreement in principle.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe this is an agreement in principle that's worthy of the American people.

"It has historic reductions in spending, consequential reforms that will lift people out of poverty into the workforce, rein in government overreach - there are no new taxes, no new government programs.

"There's a lot more within the bill. We still have more work to do tonight to finish all the writing of it" ...

"I expect to finish the writing of the bill, checking with the White House and speaking to the president again tomorrow afternoon, and then posting the text of it tomorrow, and then we vote on it on Wednesday."


"Tonight, I have been informed that there is an agreement in principle between the White House and House Republicans. This was a House Republican manufactured crisis. It's up to House Republicans to defuse that crisis. And as soon as we learn the details of disagreement in principle we will have administration officials provide that information to the Democratic members of our caucus."


"I am hearing the 'deal' is for a $4 trillion increase in the debt limit. If that is true, I don't need to hear anything else. No one claiming to be a conservative could justify a YES vote."


"I will be looking to see whether there are these increased work requirements for the poor. I thought that was the worst aspect of their (Republican) proposals because that would only serve to inflict pain on the poor." "If we didn't reach a deal the average American person would clearly see a hit...we had to reach some kind of conclusion here."