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As House advances budget deal, there are plenty of lessons learned

Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that “more than 95%” of his GOP conference was “very excited” about the debt ceiling agreement. His math was a bit off.


When a bipartisan budget deal was announced five days ago, there were still some questions as to whether the compromise legislation would be able to clear the divided U.S. House. As it turns out, the final tally wasn’t especially close. NBC News reported overnight:

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House voted Wednesday to pass the debt ceiling legislation negotiated by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden, sending it to the Senate with days to spare before a potentially disastrous default. The vote was 314 to 117, with 149 Republicans joining 165 Democrats.

The bill now heads to the Democratic-led U.S. Senate, which must pass the same bill before next week’s deadline to avoid a catastrophic default.

As the dust settles on yesterday’s Capitol Hill drama, what have we learned? Quite a bit, actually.

We’ve learned House Republicans have some real divisions.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told Fox News on Sunday that “more than 95%“ of his GOP conference was “very excited” about the agreement. In hindsight, the Republican leader probably should’ve elaborated on what “excited” meant.

In the end, the House speaker ended up losing 71 of his own members — representing nearly a third of his conference — and Democratic votes outnumbered Republican votes on McCarthy’s bill. What’s more, on a key procedural vote a few hours earlier, McCarthy was abandoned by so many of his own members that he had to turn to the Democratic minority to bail him out.

These divisions are unlikely to fade anytime soon.

We learned the House Freedom Caucus’ power is quite limited.

House Freedom Caucus members thought they were running the show. They thought their far-right ransom note was their party’s inviolable plan. They thought they had a secret Rules Committee deal that would give them veto power. They thought they’d persuade the rest of the GOP conference to oppose the bill. They thought McCarthy would be afraid of the proverbial motion-to-vacate-the-chair sword hanging overhead.

They thought wrong.

We learned that Biden guy still knows what he’s doing.

For all the talk about his age, President Joe Biden still knows how to negotiate a bipartisan deal and rally the necessary votes to get it through.

A HuffPost headline stood out as memorable: “After Calling Joe Biden Senile, Republicans Complain He Outsmarted Them.”

We learned the process in the Senate could get a little messy.

The Senate can move incredibly quickly when it wants to, but the efficiency is dependent on unanimity: If even one Republican member decides he or she wants to slow things down, they can. With this in mind, a handful of GOP senators, including Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have signaled their intention to do a little grandstanding before a final vote.

The bill has been endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the latter told reporters yesterday that he’d like to see the chamber wrap up work on the bill by tomorrow night. (Remember: Senators hate working on weekends.) That might be ambitious, but we’ll see soon enough. Watch this space.