White House believes a massive Democratic bailout may be required to pass a debt-ceiling compromise

Joe Biden
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

White House aides privately estimate that they may need to deliver as many as 100 Democratic votes to ensure that an eventual debt limit deal can pass the House’s narrowly divided chamber, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The informal projection is driven by lingering doubts among Biden officials about House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ability to persuade the vast majority of Republicans to support a bipartisan agreement, as well as the expectation that dozens of the GOP’s most conservative members will rebel against any sign of a compromise, as per Politico reports.

Top Democrats have long anticipated that a debt-ceiling agreement would require Democratic support, with Biden stressing for days that any viable solution to the standoff must be bipartisan.

And, with negotiators still conflict over the specifics of a legislative compromise, people familiar with the situation cautioned that it’s too early to say how many Democrats will be required to help McCarthy secure a majority, or even if a deal will be reached, told Politico.

However, the realization that the party may need to supply a sizable percentage of House votes in order to avoid an economically disastrous default, let alone passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate, has increasingly shaped the White House’s negotiating strategy. Aides have hardened their stance against certain GOP-proposed budget cuts and social welfare restrictions to avoid sparking a revolt among Democrats who may be required to support a deal in the end.

“It’s important that we don’t take steps back from the very strong agenda that the president himself shepherded and led over the last two years,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “What I’ve said to Leader [Hakeem] Jeffries, and to the White House, is the president has to remember that whatever he negotiates has to go through both chambers.”

According to two other people familiar with the discussions, the White House has rejected Republican efforts to expand work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well as attempts to impose significant spending cuts to a variety of domestic programs. These differences contributed to the breakdown of talks last weekend and continue to complicate negotiations, with Republicans accusing the administration on Tuesday of a “lack of urgency.”

The White House, on the other hand, has pushed back, reminding Republicans that any deal McCarthy strikes must include the dozens of Democratic votes he’ll need to get it through his chamber.

“The unanswered question is whether McCarthy can rally a majority for whatever deal he cuts when you know the big items are off the table,” said one adviser close to the White House. “They don’t have clarity on their side.”

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