Massie's Vote delivered the Rules Committee by the narrowest possible margin – 7 to 6 – for passage of the Debt Bill to the House floor. The Inclusion of Regular Order was a key reason why!
by David Cananese, McClatchyDC.com, June 1, 2023
The U.S. House passed legislation late Wednesday that will raise the nation’s debt ceiling for two years and avoid immediate default – but perhaps the most consequential moment of the weeks-long saga occurred a day earlier with a surprising vote by Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie.
Before the bipartisan deal cobbled together by Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden could reach the House floor, the terms were at the mercy of a 13-member Rules Committee stacked with conservative lawmakers – including Massie – skeptical of White House promises to significantly trim spending.
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Massie, a libertarian-minded conservative representing northern Kentucky, had never cast a vote to increase the borrowing limit until April, when Republicans put forth their dead-on-arrival plan to significantly repeal Biden’s legislative priorities in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. But this week, he sat on a committee which would determine if a much more narrow but politically acceptable austerity measure would advance, just days before the anticipated deadline to avoid default.
While admitting he was not fond of the closed-door process between McCarthy and Biden, Massie liked a provision of the bill that required Congress to work on 12 individual appropriations bills in the fall to hash out spending details – or otherwise face an automatic 1% spending cut.
A usual thorn-in-the-side to his own party leadership, Massie got to yes.
His blessing delivered the committee the narrowest possible margin – 7 to 6 – for passage to the House floor. If Massie had voted “no,” McCarthy would have been forced back to the drawing board with just days left before the June 5 deadline. Instead, the full House – including each of Kentucky’s GOP representatives – approved the deal one day later, with help from a large block of Democrats.
As conservative outrage festered, Massie explained his reasoning and pointed squarely at his home state colleague, Sen. Mitch McConnell.
“Some of them think you blow it up in the House, you march Kevin back over to the White House and you put him back in the room with Biden and he comes out with something that’s miraculously better. I don’t think that’s the next step,” Massie told conservative media personality Glenn Beck. “I think what happens next is McConnell and [Chuck] Schumer say, ‘You guys are done playing around – we’re going to get this done.”
Massie calculated that after a failure in the House, McConnell – who largely stayed on the sidelines of negotiations between McCarthy and Biden – would have inserted himself into the process and “pump out something that’s darn near a clean debt limit increase,” meaning a lifting of borrowing without any corresponding spending cuts.
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“They’ll send it over to the House, you’ll have ten Republicans who will cross the aisle and vote with [House Democratic Leader] Hakeem Jeffries and you get a clean debt limit increase,” Massie told Beck on BlazeTV. “So what we’re talking about here is a disagreement – not on ideology. I’m not here to say this is the best deal ever. It’s a disagreement on how we go forward and what we get if we blow this up.”
Once the framework had emerged, McConnell heaped praise on McCarthy and House Republicans for their work “to rein in Washington Democrats’ addiction to reckless spending.”
In exchange for allowing the federal government to borrow money to pay its obligations for 24 months, Republicans won $1.3 trillion in spending cuts, the return of $11 billion of unused Covid-19 relief funding and a smaller cut to I.R.S. enforcement.
“Finding a path forward on raising the debt ceiling is an accomplishment, and negotiators deserve credit for identifying areas of bipartisan support. There is nothing sufficiently objectionable in the deal to merit further delay,” said Will McBride, president of the business-friendly Tax Foundation.