Democrats and Republicans confident they can pass deal to avert US default

Republican leaders and the White House have secured the backing of crucial mainstream lawmakers for their deal to avert a damaging default on US debt, raising confidence that the pact can be swiftly approved by Congress.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and president Joe Biden have little room for error to ensure passage of the bipartisan pact they agreed to late on Saturday after days of heated negotiations.

The deal immediately triggered a backlash from rightwing conservatives.

Chip Roy of Texas called it a “turd sandwich”, Ralph Norman of South Carolina said it was “insane”, and Dan Bishop of North Carolina described it with a green vomit emoji, raising fears that the deal could face an uphill struggle on Capitol Hill.

But moderate lawmakers from the Republican and Democratic parties indicated they would endorse the agreement, suggesting it has sufficient support to pass into law.

“With a divided government, the only way forward is to find compromise and put the interests of the American people above all else,” Mike Lawler, a House Republican from a swing district north of New York City, said in a statement.

“Nothing we do in Congress is easy. There can always be a tortured trail to get there, but I am quite confident we’re going to get this done,” Dusty Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota, told the Financial Times.

He said the response from the majority of House Republicans had been “quite strong” and the votes of members “on the edges” of the party were “never in play”.

Johnson also defended the deal on its merits. “This bill is a series of pretty substantial conservative wins — there is no way in which this bill moves American society in a more liberal or progressive way compared to the status quo,” he said.

The first critical test will be a vote in the House expected on Wednesday. The Senate is due to follow with votes that could slip into next weekend. If no legislation is enacted by June 5, the US will run out of cash to pay all its bills, which could rattle financial markets and plunge the US and global economies into recession.

Members of the House are expected to return to Washington on Tuesday after the Memorial day long weekend ahead of the vote. McCarthy has an exceedingly small majority to work with in the House, but will be able to count on the support of some Democrats to make up for Republican defections.

Many lawmakers are still undecided and are withholding judgment until they have more time to study the bill. Biden was speaking with members of Congress ahead of the vote, according to the White House.

“There’s still a lot of work to do from here to a floor vote. That’s the thing about having such a slim majority. Even the most routine measure has the potential to become an agonising cliffhanger,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist at Penta Group, a consultancy in Washington.

Most policy analysts are still expecting the bill to pass.

“While there are some disgruntled far-right members, most conservatives are invested in getting this deal through and have little interest in entertaining a default or a motion to vacate the chair,” said Ben Koltun, of Beacon Policy Advisors, referring to an effort to strip McCarthy of his speakership.

“It is going to blow right through with no questions asked,” predicted James Lucier, a managing director at Capital Alpha.

On the Democratic side, there has been some progressive hand-wringing about some of the concessions agreed by Biden. But expressions of support, even if halfhearted, rolled in on Sunday.

“Our members are encouraged that the two sides have reached an agreement, and are confident that President Biden and White House negotiators have delivered a viable, bipartisan solution to end this crisis,” said Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, who chairs a coalition of moderate Democrats.

Most of the drama is expected to be on the Republican side. A first hurdle is likely to be a vote in the House rules committee, which includes several GOP opponents of the bill who may try to block it.

Outside pressure could also be a factor. Former president Donald Trump, who still holds sway over Republicans, previously called on lawmakers to default in the absence of deep spending cuts.

Ron DeSantis, the Republican Florida governor, told Fox & Friends that even after the deal “our country will still be careening towards bankruptcy”.

“I think that we’ve gotten ourselves on a trajectory here, really since March of 2020, with some of the Covid spending, it totally reset the budget. And they’re sticking with that. And I think that that’s just going to be totally inadequate to get us in a better spot,” he said.

Both are candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. But Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee and a Trump ally, was enthusiastic about the deal, calling it a “dramatic victory” for McCarthy.

“Before they passed their history-changing bill, no one would have believed it possible to cut spending, re-establish work requirements, reform permitting for energy and infrastructure and more,” she told Fox News in an interview on Sunday.

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