GOP holdouts coalesce around McCarthy's debt ceiling bill

Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Most House Republicans haven’t even begun to dig into the GOP leadership’s 230-page debt ceiling bill, but some key lawmakers are already signaling they are prepared to vote for it.

Why it matters: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hopes that showing he can get 218 votes for a debt ceiling increase and corresponding budget cuts finally could bring the White House to the negotiating table.

  • “I think it forces [Democrats] to come to the table because that shows you don't have the votes to move anything else,” one House Republican told Axios.
  • But President Biden insisted he won't negotiate spending cuts over the debt ceiling: Take default off the table and let's have a real serious conversation," he said in a Wednesday speech.

What we're hearing: “With what my understanding is of what's in there … frankly, we got in there what we asked for,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, told Axios.

  • Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) – another Freedom Caucus member who said on Tuesday he is "not there yet" – said Wednesday it is a “very meaningful and robust plan” and he’s “very impressed with where we ended up."
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a leading centrist, told reporters: “Most of us that I talked to that were in the Biden districts were supportive of it."

What caught our eye: Bishop, among the 20 House Republicans who voted against McCarthy for speaker on multiple ballots, offered praise for his erstwhile adversary on Wednesday.

  • "[Democrats] certainly have been floating the notion that they didn't think we can get to 218," he said, "And I think they underestimate … how very well the speaker has undertaken the leadership role he has entered."

The state of play: Democratic campaign operatives are attacking vulnerable Republicans over the spending cuts in the bill – but Biden-district members insist they're not worried about selling it back home.

  • Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), whose district went for President Biden by 12 percentage points in 2020, told Axios he is "confident" about how the bill will play with his constituents.
  • "This notion that we're killing the federal government – we're getting back to responsible spending that's pro-growth, pro-taxpayer," he said.
  • Bacon argued that the bill's work requirements and repeal of Inflation Reduction Act tax credits are "frankly, very popular" with voters.

What we're watching: Conservatives are signaling that they won’t dilute the spending cuts, meaning McCarthy may have to turn to Democrats to pass any deal struck with the White House.

  • "This is the deal. This isn't the negotiating [position]," Good said of the GOP bill, "And we need to be willing to walk away if the Senate and the president don't accept it … it requires all of this to get to 218."

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