Key Democrats crucial to putting a debt ceiling deal over the finish line were critical on Sunday of an agreement in principle that President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) struck the night before to lift the debt limit and cap spending over the next two years.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) was notably cagey about shoring up enough Democratic support to seal the deal. He said he expects there will be Democrats on board but admitted that he doesn’t know “what those numbers may ultimately look like.” He also hasn’t outright expressed support for the bill himself.
“I do expect that there will be Democratic support, once we have the ability to actually be fully briefed by the White House,” Jeffries told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”
“But I’m not going to predict what those numbers may ultimately look like. We have to go through a process consistent with respecting every single member of the House of Representatives and their ability to fully understand the resolution that has been raised,” Jeffries added. He’s previously said Democrats won’t automatically back a deal even if it’s one struck in part by the White House.
Biden and McCarthy reached a much-anticipated deal on Saturday that would raise the debt ceiling for two years and apply new caps on federal spending through the same period. But both men are likely to face a revolt from their respective party members over elements in the deal that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have panned, setting up a crucial test for Congress to avoid default this week.
Biden said the agreement “represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want” and called it “good news for the American people, because it prevents what could have been a catastrophic default.” In negotiations, the White House had been pushing for a clean increase of the debt limit, while Republicans had pressed for an increase tied to spending cuts.
The two sides had been been dug-in for weeks before a deal came together Saturday evening.
Jeffries may not be able to look toward the Progressive Caucus, with its more than 100 members, for support. Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Sunday also said she can’t say how she’ll vote without the text of the agreement being available yet. She added that Democrats in Congress and the White House “have to worry” that her caucus won’t support the deal.
“Yes, they have to worry,” the congresswoman said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Jayapal is among a number of Democrats who has taken issue with the agreement’s provision to expand work requirements for some Americans on food stamps. She called the move “absolutely terrible policy,” but said she’s not sure yet if it’s a dealbreaker because she hasn’t seen the exact language in the bill.
Biden and McCarthy are scheduled to speak Sunday afternoon after which legislative text is expected to be released.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a moderate Democrat that leaders like Jeffries will have to rely on to support a measure, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he’s “anything but a clear yes” on the tentative agreement.
“I have not made up my mind. The whole enterprise is a corrupt enterprise, in terms of legislating this way, and I’m gonna listen to what the president’s and his people’s arguments are, but no, I’m anything but a clear yes vote at this point,” Himes told anchor Shannon Bream.
The Connecticut lawmaker said it’s “not a bill that is going to make any Democrats happy. But it’s a small enough bill that in the service of actually not destroying the economy this week, may get Democratic votes.”