by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The House passed Kevin McCarthy’s debt-ceiling deal with Joe Biden, … and it wasn’t close. The final vote was 314-117, with 165 Democrats and 149 Republicans in favor, but significant dissent within both caucuses.
Politically, this is an unambiguous win for McCarthy and House Republicans, who were expected to get nothing, and an unambiguous defeat for Joe Biden, who promised that House Republicans would get nothing. It also shows that Democrats on the Hill are just bystanders now on any issue that requires the affirmative consent of the House.
Policy-wise, it is something of a damp squib for conservatives, but I expected all along that the final deal would be a classic bipartisan inside-the-Beltway turd sandwich. McCarthy had limited leverage, and the good news is that he didn’t agree to any of Biden’s demands for tax hikes, or really much else that was affirmatively harmful. Our editorial on the deal is appropriately realistic about the fact that Republicans were never going to get a lot of what they wanted. I’d have preferred the deal be weighted more toward immediate rollback of excessive 2021-22 spending rather than side issues such as work requirements, and that it push harder for the executive branch to accept the constitutional limits on its authority to spend money by presidential fiat, but McCarthy clearly felt that it was easier to get Biden to sign off on a bunch of small victories with less budgetary impact. Some conservatives are upset that the deal ignores border security, but I never saw the border as a leverage issue — it’s a messaging issue, one where you try to win the public argument (instead of the Beltway-conference-room argument), and either get the other side to fold or take your disagreement to the voters.