(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck a deal to avert a default on the nation’s debt, but now must overcome objections by members of their own parties to pass the compromise legislation.
Here are the key flash points that could delay or derail the package as it moves through the US House and Senate ahead of June 5, the date by which the Treasury says it will not be able to pay all its obligations.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus say McCarthy failed to negotiate a big enough spending cut and many have already said they will vote “no.”
The deal can still pass the House with the help of Democrats, but the anger among far-right factions means that there could be repercussions for McCarthy later on.
Read more: GOP Hard-Liner Calls for McCarthy’s Ouster Over Debt-Limit Deal
GOP hard-liner Representative Chip Roy of Texas said Tuesday there would be a “reckoning” over the debt deal. Representative Dan Bishop of North Carolina said that conservatives must pull the “motion to vacate” lever that allows any one member to call for a vote to remove McCarthy as speaker.
Food (Assistance) Fight
A centerpiece of the deal for many conservatives is extending work requirements to get food stamps, which now apply to recipients through age 49 but under the legislation would apply to people through age 54. This is also a central point of contention for many Democrats.
Conservatives see the new restrictions on Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, as a way to both reduce costs and encourage more people to work. Progressives point to studies showing the requirements haven’t increased employment among people covered. The restrictions merely drive people off food assistance through burdensome work-reporting requirements, they say. It also can be difficult for people with disabilities to get through bureaucratic hurdles to show they qualify for an exemption, they say.
The White House points to a concession Republicans made in return: new exemptions from the work requirement for veterans, homeless people and young adults emerging from foster care. As a result, about the same number of people will be subject to the work requirement as before, according to a White House official who briefed reporters.
Biden pushed back on criticism that the new restrictions would cause more people to go hungry, on Sunday calling that “a ridiculous assertion.” But the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities countered that the deal will “put at risk food assistance for very low-income older adults” and “increase hunger and poverty among that group.”
Mountain Valley Pipeline
Progressive Democrats and environmental activists are infuriated over a last-minute addition to the legislation to green light the controversial Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia. The bill would also block legal challenges to that authorization.
That could lead to a Democrat-on-Democrat battle. That’s because Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has relentlessly championed the multibillion-dollar Equitrans Midstream Corp. project. Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, has vowed to push an amendment stripping the Mountain Valley Pipeline language from the debt-ceiling bill.
Environmental activists argue the decision to override the public-permit process and the right to legal review undermines principles of good government and sets a dangerous precedent. Landowners in the project’s path say they feel like they’ve been ambushed.
Still, the permitting changes fall far short of the overhaul Republicans had sought, including their push for a shorter, two-year time limit for lawsuits challenging project approvals under the 53-year-old National Environmental Policy Act.
Republicans also secured a suite of changes that aim to expedite major energy and infrastructure projects by limiting the government’s role in scrutinizing those ventures through NEPA.
The debt deal would impose artificial deadlines and discourage public input in environmental reviews of new projects while opening the door to more litigation, said Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice.
Under the bill, fewer projects would be subject to government review and federal agencies would be under new deadlines to complete their examinations. Democrats say the proposed deadlines — two years for environmental impact statements and one year for environmental assessments — would spur agencies to rush, potentially overlooking the consequences for climate change, neighboring communities and public health.
Democrats are hoping to amend some of the permitting changes as part of the rule bringing the package to the House floor.
Key advocates for the military including Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Roger Wicker were not happy with defense spending levels, because a 3.3% increase fails to keep up with inflation. That effectively amounts to a cut for the armed services.
Leaders of the military service usually send wish lists to Congress seeking funds for items that didn’t make it into the president’s proposed budget. Those lists totaled more than $30 billion for fiscal year 2024.
--With assistance from Mike Dorning, Ari Natter and Roxana Tiron.
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