Cracks form among progressive Democrats over debt limit as party leaders stand firm

Pramila Jayapal, left, Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., left, speaks about the threat of default as Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., right, listens during a news conference, Wednesday, May 24, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib) Mariam Zuhaib/AP

Cracks form among progressive Democrats over debt limit as party leaders stand firm

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Just hours before the House is set to meet for a vote to raise the debt ceiling, several progressive Democrats have come out in opposition to the bill and say they won’t assist House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in pushing the legislation across the finish line.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) announced she would be voting against the bill on Wednesday, setting the stage for several other progressive lawmakers to fall in line behind her. Jayapal told Axios that a “majority of the caucus” opposes the bill, which “could be” enough for them to actively whip against the legislation — possibly complicating its passage in the House.


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was the first Democrat to come out as a definite no on the bill, telling reporters on Tuesday she disagreed with several of its provisions. Instead, the New York Democrat said it would be up to McCarthy to secure the necessary support.

“This was their deal,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Holding the U.S. economy hostage is not acceptable, and pushing through these cuts are also not acceptable. … But Kevin McCarthy needs to put up his votes. And if he needs mine, he can come get it, and he can come negotiate some things away.”

Other progressive Democrats remain undecided, noting that while they disagree with several of the spending cuts, they applaud the White House for the concessions they were able to secure from Republicans.

“When we look at where we started and where we’re at, the White House did a great job at clawing back a lot of what the Republicans want,” Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) told the Washington Examiner. “But at the end of the day, this is really up to Speaker McCarthy to deliver the majority of his caucus, and I’m not sure he’s there.”

A handful of other progressive Democrats remain undecided on the bill but say they are leaning against it, including Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), and Dan Goldman (D-NY).

Despite the pushback from some progressives, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) maintained that Democrats remained unified and that the party would ensure the country does not default. However, he stopped short on what exactly that meant, sidestepping questions on whether Democrats would provide extra votes if Republicans fail to secure the majority support of their caucus.

“This caucus will remain unified with the president and most importantly with the Americans in this fight,” Jeffries said, acknowledging that not all Democrats support the bill. “Unity is different from unanimity. … We are going to make sure that we avoid a default, and then we’ll be unified as we move forward in building an economy that works for everyday Americans.”

Jeffries has vowed to provide the support needed to surpass the 213-vote threshold to pass the debt limit bill so long as McCarthy can provide at least 150 votes from his own party. The whip count among GOP lawmakers is not yet clear, and Jeffries said he has not seen a final tally from the speaker yet.


Meanwhile, several hard-line conservatives have come out in opposition to the bill and say they’ll oppose the legislation when it comes to the floor — possibly complicating McCarthy’s efforts. At least 35 Republicans have said they’ll vote against the legislation so far.

However, McCarthy has brushed off concerns that opposition from both progressives and hard-line conservatives in his own party could sink the bill, expressing confidence the bill will pass with majority Republican support.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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