WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has sown the seeds for a showdown over the debt ceiling, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy backing a push by his hardliners to demand cuts in debt. expenditures as part of any extension of the country’s borrowing authority.

The political divide is deep and the stakes are high.

Ultra-conservative lawmakers insist they don’t want the country to go into default, but the Democratic-led Senate or President Joe Biden is unlikely to agree to their conditions for raising the debt limit.

The Republicans are on a collision course with the White House, which is demanding that Congress raise the debt limit without conditions.

If they fail to resolve their differences and cause a default, the range of consequences includes a stock market crash, a recession, higher interest rates for consumers, a weaker dollar, a downgrade of the US credit rating. … and a government unable to meet all of its obligations, from funding the military to providing Social Security benefits.

What is the debt ceiling?

It’s a legal limit that dates back to 1917 and limits the level of debt the federal government can take on. Once the US hits the ceiling and exhausts ways to pay its bills, Congress must raise the ceiling so the government can continue to borrow to meet its obligations. Failure to do so could force the country into default, which experts warn would be economically catastrophic.

Republicans have fought heated battles over the debt ceiling, especially in 2011, but they have always been resolved on time.

The issue is poorly understood by the public and is often falsely presented as a vote to spend more money, when it is simply paying the bills that the US has legally imposed. Congress is unique in that it regularly votes to increase spending or cut taxes, which increases debt, but is also forced to vote separately on whether the country should borrow to pay those bills.

When is the debt ceiling deadline?

Officially, the United States is expected to hit the borrowing limit on Thursday. After that, the Treasury Department will use «extraordinary measures» to keep paying the bills, which is expected to continue until «early June,» when Congress will need to act, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told McCarthy, Republican for California. in a letter Friday.

national debt it’s about 31.4 trillion dollars.

Why is a GOP House of Representatives complicating debt ceiling negotiations?

Conservative lawmakers say that as part of their negotiations to allow McCarthy the presidency, they made sure to include major spending cuts to balance the federal budget in any increase in the debt limit. And to enforce that, they secured other rule changes that give a small group of members the power to remove McCarthy.

But Democrats, who control the Senate and the White House, are unlikely to agree to those cuts. They also oppose making political concessions to raise the debt ceiling, particularly after a 2011 standoff during Barack Obama’s presidency, when a GOP House took the US some time.

The house is new rulesAdopted by Republicans last week, it requires an explicit vote to increase US borrowing authority, eliminating a final run Congress has previously used to speed it up.

What do the Republicans want?

A variety of things. So far, there is no specific set of demands and no document that reflects a consensus position within the party. Republicans have raised everything from budget cuts to socially conservative legislation as part of raising the debt ceiling.

McCarthy has said that the debt ceiling is a test of the Republican Party’s commitment to rein in spending. Appearing on Fox News on Sunday, he likened the US government to a spendthrift child with a credit card limit that needs to be lowered.

“You couldn’t just keep increasing it,” he said, calling on Biden to negotiate spending cuts. “Let’s sit down and change our behavior for the good of America. Because what we’re going to do is bankrupt this country and bankrupt these rights if we don’t change their behavior today.» (Social Security and Medicare are the most expensive of those programs.)

Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C., said he wants dollar-for-dollar spending cuts for any borrowing limit increases. «Also, we have to make some progress with the deficit we have.»

Image: Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C., speaks to reporters on his way to a closed-door Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on January 10, 2023,
Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C., speaks to reporters on his way to a closed-door Republican caucus meeting at the US Capitol on Tuesday.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said he wants to reduce federal spending to fiscal year 2022 levels and balance the budget over 10 years. That’s a tall order: Balancing the budget in a decade would require massive spending cuts or tax increases that lack support in Congress.

Still, Roy said, “you only have so many leverage and bargaining points. The debt ceiling is one of those.»

Stephen Miller, who advised former President Donald Trump, pointed to the debt ceiling and government funding bills as a way for the GOP to try to force Biden to cut money for the IRS and restrict abortion rights.

What is the position of the White House and the Democrats?

The White House had set a score: no negotiations, no political conditions attached to raising the debt ceiling.

“We are not going to make any negotiations. And it should be done, again, with no strings attached,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday.

Legislative action requires the cooperation of the Republican Party. Republicans control the House, which means McCarthy gets to decide which bills get voted on on the floor. In the Senate, Democrats hold a 51-seat majority, but most bills require 60 votes to break a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., issued a joint statement Friday warning that a “Republican-forced default MAGA extremes could plunge the country into a deep recession.” They added: “Democrats want to move quickly to pass legislation to address the debt limit so there is no chance of risking a catastrophic default.”

What is the position of the moderate Republicans?

Some Republicans say default is not an option, but none have called for the «clean» raise Democrats want.

“I will tell them that we will not let our country default on our debt,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., who co-chairs the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. “The full faith and credit of the United States is what gives us the position we occupy in the world. So that’s off the table. We will not default. We cannot afford non-compliance.»

Fitzpatrick said he is already discussing options with Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., the Democratic co-chairman of the PSC, on how to raise the debt ceiling.

Fitzpatrick said Congress should «bind it with some assurances that we’ll be responsible in trying to balance our budget.» But he said he believes in a social safety net and that a 10-year time frame to end red ink is «aggressive.»

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Nebraska, who sits in a district won by Biden, said Sunday on ABC’s «This Week» that default is «a real threat» that both sides need to take seriously.

He said Republicans are determined to «control reckless spending,» but they must realize they can’t just «dictate» terms to the Senate and White House. He insisted that Biden must also negotiate: “You cannot say that he refuses to negotiate. That’s not a start either.»

Is there a way to avoid McCarthy?

Lawmakers have discussed using a «request for discharge» if necessary. It requires a faction of House Republicans to remove a speaker from their party, an extremely rare occurrence, and join Democrats in forcing a floor vote. If a majority of legislators sign it, the bill can move to a vote in the chamber.

Still, there is a variety of restrictions to the use of a download request.

First, it requires a bill to be stuck in committee for 30 legislative days (not calendar days, and the House only has eight legislative days in February). Then 218 House signatures are needed (that is, at least five Republicans plus Democrats). Then it must sit on the calendar for seven legislative days. The author can then compel the speaker to take a vote within two legislative days.

Some moderate Republicans have kept the door open for a dismissal petition. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Fitzpatrick said. «It’s one of many options.»

But the more conservative members say no.

“We’re going to fight that,” Norman said.