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January 30, 2023

What to expect in Washington (January 30)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said January 29 he will meet with President Biden to discuss the debt limit on Wednesday, February 1. "I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending … " he said on Face the Nation, adding that cuts to Social Security and Medicare should be taken off the table. "There will not be a default," he said. Speaker McCarthy said the House and Senate should be required to pass a budget, and appropriations bills shouldn't be decided by a small group of members at the end of the year (citing the year-end 2022 omnibus).

Most Democrats have taken the position that they will not negotiate on the debt limit, saying it reflects debts the nation has already amassed. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) last week challenged Republicans to reveal their plans to cut spending and questioned whether they would cut entitlement benefits. "Then we'll have a conversation, and we don't even have a document in front of us for which to have a discussion around what future investments in the American people should look like," he said. "I can tell you we support Social Security strongly. We support Medicare strongly. We support veterans' benefits strongly. And we don't believe that America should default on its debt and fail to pay bills that have already been incurred."

On the other hand, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is encouraging fellow Democrats to negotiate with Republicans on the debt limit. And, while Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Senators have suggested the debt limit is House Republicans' fight to wage, some conservative members are vocally backing their effort. On Friday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and 23 other Senate Republicans — including all new incoming GOP members — sent a letter to President Biden expressing opposition to a debt-ceiling hike without real structural spending reform that reduces deficit spending. "Americans are keenly aware that their government is not only failing to work for them — but actively working against them. We do not intend to vote for a debt-ceiling increase without structural reforms to address current and future fiscal realities and manage out-of-control government policies," the letter stated.

A discharge petition, by which the support of a majority of House members can bring a bill to the floor without leadership support, has been mentioned — including by top Democrats on the House and Senate budget committees — as a workaround for Speaker McCarthy's commitment to only call a vote on a debt limit bill that has accompanying spending cuts. A January 26 Washington Post opinion piece cited two problems:

  • "discharge is an extremely slow process: A given bill must sit in committee for 30 legislative days. Then 218 House members have to sign a petition calling for it to be "discharged" to the floor. Then that petition needs to sit on a House calendar for seven legislative days. And only then can a member bring the bill to a vote."
  • "the discharge process is clumsy. For it to work, this rogue majority of House members would need to strike a deal with Senate leaders far in advance, then pass that deal through both chambers without changes — or the House members who discharged the bill lose control of it to the speaker."

A separate Post article listed as unilateral ideas for the President to end the debt limit stalemate without Congress:

  • Mint the $1 trillion coin
  • Declare the debt ceiling incompatible with spending laws
  • Raise cash by selling federal land (then buy it back)
  • Buy back old bonds at a discount
  • Invoke the 14th Amendment
  • Issue 'consol bonds' that keep paying interest but never mature
  • Ask the Fed for an advance

Congress — The Senate is back in this afternoon. Republicans haven't finalized their committee rosters, as there have been negotiations over whether more than one senator per state can sit on powerful committees (the focus is on Judiciary). That has kept the Senate from passing an organizing resolution that is generally required to send bills and nominations to the floor. The Finance Committee Democratic roster includes 14 members, creating the expectation that Republicans will have 13 members now that the Senate is no longer a 50-50 split.

The House is also back in today. Ways and Means subcommittee and ranking member assignments have been made and the Committee will hold an organizational meeting on Tuesday, January 31.

Suspension bills to be considered by the full House include:

  • H.R. 290 - To provide for transparent licensing of commercial remote sensing systems, and for other purposes. (Rep. Lucas/Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
  • H.R. 342 - To amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to require reporting relating to certain cost-share requirements, and for other purposes. (Rep. Obernolte/Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
  • H.R. 500 - Financial Exploitation Prevention Act of 2023 (Rep. Wagner/Financial Services Committee)
  • H.R. 582 - Credit Union Board Modernization Act (Rep. Vargas/Financial Services Committee)
  • H.R. 298 - Expanding Access to Capital for Rural Job Creators Act (Rep. Mooney/Financial Services Committee)

Other items to be considered this week include:

  • H.R. 497 - Freedom for Health Care Workers Act (Rep. Duncan/Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • H.R. 382 - Pandemic is Over Act (Rep. Guthrie/Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • H.R. 139 - SHOW UP Act of 2023 (Rep. Comer/Oversight and Accountability Committee)
  • H.J. Res. 7 - Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on March 13, 2020 (Sponsored by Rep. Gosar/Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
  • H. Con. Res. 9 - Denouncing the horrors of socialism (Rep. Salazar/Financial Services Committee)


Contact Information
For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
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