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The House has approved critical legislation to lift the debt ceiling

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The House of Representatives has approved critical legislation to lift the debt ceiling.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: Passing the Fiscal Responsibility Act is a crucial first step for putting America back on track. It does what is responsible for our children, what is possible in divided government and what is required by our principles and promises.

CHANG: Next, the Senate will take up the bill in a process that could take several days. All of this, of course, is brushing up against the deadline for when the country is projected to run out of money to pay its bills. That deadline is Monday, June 5. Joining us now is NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales, who has been covering this issue relentlessly. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right, so what did we see with this vote tonight?

GRISALES: So this passed by an overwhelming margin. The final vote tally was 314-117. And with that, we saw more than 160 Democrats vote yes and about 150 Republicans to vote for this as well. So Democrats played a major role here, getting this through the chamber. In the end, we saw about 70 Republicans vote no. This includes members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. We saw progressive Democrats vote no as well. So while Democrats help carry this bipartisan agreement in the House between President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy to final passage, it also got a large boost from moderate Republicans.

CHANG: All right, well, what elements in this bill have attracted the most pushback from Republicans and from some Democrats?

GRISALES: We've heard a lot of concerns from Democrats that this deal was a ransom note in these negotiations to raise the debt limit and frustration about the overall limits on spending. Some Democrats also decried what they saw as legislation installing new limits on federal assistance benefits for women of color, including Wisconsin Democrat Gwen Moore.

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GWEN MOORE: Speaker after speaker has insisted on denying food to poor, old women who are primarily Black and brown. And, you know, it seems like the pound of flesh that you get is more delicious than having savings.

GRISALES: And then, on the other hand, we heard from conservative Republicans who said this was no deal at all and that the GOP could have extracted a lot more from the Biden White House and did not.

CHANG: Well, some Republicans have criticized McCarthy's whole deal-making around all of this, right? Do you think McCarthy will be keeping his job after all of this is over?

GRISALES: We did hear significant discontent among Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus. But this hasn't gained any traction, and McCarthy himself is quite confident. Talking to reporters earlier today, he said he was not worried about losing his gavel. And actually, he said, in terms of those worries, that he had - those worries were, quote, "not at all" in his mind.

CHANG: OK. So the House voted to approve this bill to suspend the debt limit tonight. What are the next steps for the Senate now?

GRISALES: As we know, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the so-called debt limit X date - this is the deadline for Monday, June 5 - is coming up, and the Senate already has a list of senators who will vote against this. We saw a preview of that on the Senate floor today with Utah Republican Mike Lee and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders slamming the legislation and vowing to vote against it. So Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has warned his chamber that, without cooperation, they should prepare for potential votes at the end of this week or perhaps even into the weekend.

CHANG: Oof (ph). That is NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you so much, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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