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Debt ceiling bill: key takeaways from the vote

The US House of Representatives passed the much-debated debt ceiling bill on Wednesday evening, moving the country closer to avoiding a potentially catastrophic default. Next up in line is the Senate, the Democrat majority chamber, which would push the bill to Joe Biden’s desk.

But the vote on Wednesday revealed the divided lines, not only between Republicans and Democrats, but within the parties. Here are some key takeaways from this vote on the Fiscal Responsibility Act:

Kevin McCarthy’s party faced significant internal resistance

More Democrats (165) than Republicans (149) supported the measure – something the right wing may use as evidence that the bill was a bad deal for their side. Indeed, the Republican opposition to the bill is much louder than that of progressive Democrats, who are concerned about the cuts to benefits programs and the impact on climate.

Key Democratic programs and priorities will feel the effects

An estimated 750,000 could lose food stamp benefits due to the new work requirements, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive thinktank. And in another blow to progressives, the bill gives special treatment to the Mountain Valley pipeline.

A quarter of the $80bn of newly allotted funding to refurbish the IRS will also be cut from Biden’s key legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act

But it preserves health plans, Social Security and other programs

The bill will not impact Medicaid benefits, the main government health program for low income Americans, or social security, even though McCarthy tried to keep the debate open on such programs just hours ahead of Wednesday’s vote. Republicans attempted to cut these plans to curb government spending. However the bill will avoid more increases to the bloated US defense budget.

And the agreement will fully fund medical care for veterans at the levels included in Biden’s proposed 2024 budget blueprint.

Both Biden and McCarthy are counting this as a win

While critics say the president could have avoided making multiple concessions, the president touted his ability to bring the deal together under heated circumstances, and the bipartisanship he has famously campaigned on.

“This budget agreement is a bipartisan compromise,” the president said in a statement reacting to the news. “Neither side got everything it wanted. That’s the responsibility of governing. I want to thank speaker McCarthy and his team for negotiating in good faith, as well as leader Jeffries for his leadership. This agreement is good news for the American people and the American economy.”

McCarthy, meanwhile, claimed the bill would herald the “largest savings in American history” during the floor debate, though this is not quite accurate.

“I have been thinking about this day before my vote for speaker because I knew the debt ceiling was coming. And I wanted to make history. I wanted to do something no other Congress has done,” McCarthy told reporters after the vote. “Tonight, we all made history.”

The Senate is already making moves to move the bill forward

Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader has already put the debt limit bill on the Senate calendar to start the process on Thursday. There is likely to be some resistance there as well, as progressives such as Bernie Sanders have already signaled their concerns, but the bill is expected to pass.

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