The House on Wednesday narrowly passed Republicans’ bill to raise the debt ceiling while cutting spending and unraveling major elements of President Biden’s domestic agenda, in a G.O.P. bid to force the president to negotiate over spending cuts or risk a catastrophic debt default.
Facing his greatest challenge since being elected to his post, Speaker Kevin McCarthy barely cobbled together the votes to pass the bill, which was approved in a nail-biter 217-to-215 vote along party lines, with four Republicans voting against it. The legislation would raise the debt ceiling into next year in exchange for freezing spending at last year’s levels for a decade — a nearly 14 percent cut — rolling back parts of Mr. Biden’s landmark health, climate and tax law, imposing work requirements on social programs and expanding mining and fossil fuel production.
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Even Republicans conceded that their legislation was headed nowhere; Mr. Biden has threatened to veto it, and the measure is dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate. Without action by Congress to raise the statutory borrowing limit, the United States government faces a potentially catastrophic default as early as this summer.
House Republicans regarded the vote as a crucial step to strengthen their negotiating position against Mr. Biden amid questions about whether Mr. McCarthy would be able to unite his fractious conference to pass any fiscal outline at all. Their leaders pressed ahead with the vote even before it was clear that they would be able to muster the support needed for passage, essentially daring the remaining holdouts to tank the bill on the floor and risk undermining Mr. McCarthy’s negotiating position. The gambit worked.
The vote came after Republican leaders revised the bill early Wednesday in the hopes of nailing down the votes of crucial holdouts. Mr. McCarthy agreed to jettison a provision rolling back tax credits that the Biden administration put in place for ethanol, as demanded by a bloc of Midwesterners, and moved up by a year, to 2024, the imposition of work requirements for Medicaid and food stamp recipients. The changes assuaged several Republicans.
Four right-wing Republicans voted against the legislation, the most Mr. McCarthy could afford to lose and still have it pass. They were Representatives Andy Biggs of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida, two of Mr. McCarthy’s chief antagonists in his prolonged fight to be elected speaker, as well as Ken Buck of Colorado and Tim Burchett of Tennessee.