House moves closer to vote on debt ceiling deal as lawmakers race to prevent default
"On history, I'd want to be here with this bill today," Speaker McCarthy said.
A deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling is heading to a crucial vote in the House on Wednesday night, the next step in averting a potential default now just days away.
The bill, titled the "Fiscal Responsibility Act," cleared its first major hurdle Tuesday when the House Rules Committee advanced the bill in a 7-6 vote.
A subsequent vote to begin debate on the bill, on Wednesday afternoon, was approved by the House 241-187 when about three dozen Democrats joined a majority of Republicans in voting yes.
A full floor vote is scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. Eastern and the legislation is expected to pass then as well, but frustration in both parties has seen leaders working around the clock to shore up enough support among their members. The Treasury Department has estimated that the government will run out of cash to pay all of its bills by Monday.
"Today we're gonna pass the largest cut in American history. It's just a small step putting us on the right track," a confident House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters as he entered the Capitol on Wednesday.
McCarthy added that "everybody has a right to their own opinion, but on history, I'd want to be here with this bill today."
The vote will be a major test for the speaker, who faces a potential revolt from conservative hard-liners if he fails to get a majority of his conference (112 Republicans) to back the deal.
As of Wednesday morning, 32 House Republicans and counting said they were against the bill.
"We are not going to have 218 [Republicans]," McCarthy told ABC News on Wednesday, conceding what has seemed likely for days -- his party will need Democratic votes to pass the bill and raise the debt ceiling.
Such cooperation has been a red flag for other conservatives.
"If a majority of Republicans are against a piece of legislation and you use Democrats to pass it, that would immediately be a black letter violation of the deal we had with McCarthy ... and it would likely trigger an immediate motion to vacate," Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said Tuesday on Newsmax.
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that McCarthy's "lost some trust in how this has been handled." The speaker brushed off criticisms that Republicans were "outsmarted" by Democrats.
A motion to vacate, under new House rules agreed to by McCarthy during his speakership battle back in January, would allow just one member of Congress to bring up a vote on removing the speaker. A simple majority of the House would be needed to pass such a motion.
Adding another layer to GOP discontentment is a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that found the deal would actually increase the number of people eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and increase the cost by $2.1 billion.
Work requirements for SNAP and other federal assistance programs were a major sticking point for Republicans in the negotiations between McCarthy and President Joe Biden.
McCarthy said late Tuesday that the CBO was "totally wrong" and claimed the agency "double-counted."
Amid the conservative uproar over the bill as cutting far too little, McCarthy announced Wednesday the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the federal budget to look for potential waste to be cut.
On the other side of the aisle, House Democrats met behind closed doors with White House negotiators for several hours on Wednesday.
"In that meeting, I made clear that I'm going to support the legislation that is on the floor today and that I support it without hesitation, reservation or trepidation," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Wednesday. "Not because it's perfect, but in divided government we of course cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good."
Several progressive Democrats have pushed back against provisions of the bill but two key groups, the 100-member New Democrat Coalition and the 46-member bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, have endorsed the deal ahead of Wednesday night's vote.
"We continue to maintain that House Republicans need keep their commitment to produce 150 for the resolution, that they themselves negotiated. And when that happens, Democrats are going to make sure that there is no default," Jeffries said.
If it passes the House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said his chamber would immediately take it up.
"Once it is the Senate's turn to act, I cannot stress enough that we have no margin -- no margin -- for error," Schumer said in floor remarks Wednesday. "Either we proceed quickly and send this bipartisan agreement to the president's desk or the federal government will default for the first time ever."
A potential roadblock will be if a filibuster materializes, which could delay the process for up to a week.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's given his approval on the bill, calling it a "down payment on more progress that's yet to come."
"When this agreement reaches the Senate, I'll be proud to support it without delay," McConnell said Wednesday.
He told reporters that, "what I hope happens is that those who have amendments, if given votes, will yield back time so that we can finish this Thursday or Friday and soothe the country and soothe the markets."
ABC News' Noah Minnie, Lauren Peller, Will Steakin and Trish Turner contributed to this report.
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