House GOP leadership apparently caved to Midwestern Republicans and hardliners on their major debt limit and tax cut bill overnight, making changes to biofuel tax credits and public assistance work requirement provisions despite insisting on Tuesday that they were done negotiating the measure and would not make any more changes to it.
The last-minute changes were made just hours after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters that he would not revise the bill despite opposition from Republicans piling up.
“No, we’re gonna pass the bill on the floor,” McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday when asked if he would reopen the bill.
“We’re done negotiating, and we’re gonna get this bill through,” House GOP Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson (R-La.) had said earlier in the day.
In an apparent deal with Midwestern Republicans concerned about the bill’s elimination of ethanol tax credits, a manager’s amendment released during a House Rules Committee hearing that lasted into the wee hours eliminated provisions that would have eliminated tax credits for biofuels. Those tax credits were part of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, the climate, energy and health-care package that Republicans opposed last year.
Those tax credits were part of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, the climate, energy and health-care package that Republicans opposed last year.
It also adds in a grandfather clause in a section that eliminates sustainable aviation fuel and alternative fuel tax credits for those engaged in activities who would have received a credit after the Inflation Reduction Act passed and before it was introduced.
With those changes, it appears that leadership made a deal with Midwestern Republicans. The entire Iowa delegation along with other Midwesterners had met in McCarthy’s office on Tuesday. McCarthy acknowledged they were hashing out concerns about ethanol.
Another change speaks to hardliners who wanted faster implementation of work requirements for assistance programs.
A manager’s amendment moves up implementation of work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from fiscal year 2025 to fiscal year 2024.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) had threatened to vote against the bill unless the work requirements were moved up.
The changes do not, however, include upping work requirements from 20 hours per week, one desire voiced by multiple members but balked at by moderates.
Closing out the day Tuesday in the closely split House chamber, the bill’s prospects looked dim. Republicans can only afford to lose four votes assuming all Democrats oppose the measure, which House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) predicted would happen.
Tuesday night, Gaetz told CNN that there were “at least 8 no votes on the legislation.”
Some conservatives said they were still holding out for stronger work requirements; the Midwestern Republicans — including the entire four-person Iowa delegation — were in favor of nixing parts of the measure that would eliminate tax breaks for ethanol; and moderate Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) still had reservations about the bill eliminating green tax credits and not going far enough in reducing deficit spending.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) declared that he was “definitely a no,” Mace said “I’m a no right now,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) called himself a “lean no” and Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who previously said he was a “hard no” but could be brought on board with the right revisions, said his posture had not changed.
Asked Tuesday night how McCarthy would bring the holdouts on board without changing the bill, the Speaker told reporters he would do so “the same way we’ve done it every week when you talk to me about every other bill we’re bringing to the floor.”
But his whip operation appeared to be hitting some snags.
Burchett said he hardened his “no” vote after leadership did not show up at a meeting with him. The congressman previously said he would never support increasing the debt limit, but was open to the GOP proposal last week.
“I had a meeting and they didn’t show. So I’m definitely a no now,” he said, declining to disclose which member missed the meeting.
“I’m not gonna flip a vote because of my ego,” Burchett said. “Just don’t take me for granted.”
The House GOP’s Limit, Save, Grow Act is intended to pull President Biden to the negotiating table to agree to spending cuts as a condition of raising the debt limit. The president has refused to meet with McCarthy on the matter as he pushes for a “clean” debt limit increase.
The bill pairs a debt limit increase of $1.5 trillion with slashes to spending, and elimination of programs championed by Biden, including efforts to fight climate change, expand health coverage, forgive college debt and empower the IRS to retrieve unpaid taxes. The Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday that the bill would reduce budget deficits by about $4.8 trillion over a decade.