WASHINGTON — Concerned about the spending limits contained in the debt-limit bill brokered between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams was one of several dozen Democrats who voted against the measure.
Although the legislation suspending the debt ceiling for two years passed with a majority of Republicans and Democrats in favor, Williams was among a group of Georgia lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who logged their opposition.
The Atlanta Democrat said she had heard from constituents who worried about provisions in the bill that added new work requirements for food assistance recipients and that limited Biden’s ability to pause student loan repayments.
“While I am glad that our party bailed out the Republican Party and passed this so that we are not facing a catastrophic default on our debt in this country, I had to make sure that I was uplifting the voices of the people who are left out of the conversation,” Williams said after the vote.
Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick became the third Georgia Republican to announce he opposed the deal. He joined U.S. Reps. Andrew Clyde of Athens and Mike Collins of Jackson.
McCormick, a freshman from Suwanee, said Congress had ignored “skyrocketing debt” for too long. The legislation that coupled cuts in federal spending with a suspension of the debt ceiling didn’t go far enough to address his concerns, he said.
“GOP leadership negotiated with President Biden in good faith, understanding the limitations of our position,” McCormick said in a statement Wednesday. “But I am a ‘no’ on the Fiscal Responsibility Act because it fails to address the root problems of Washington’s spending addiction.”
In total, 70 Republicans and 46 Democrats voted against the measure, including the four from Georgia. The bill passed 314-117.
The vast majority of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said there were provisions they disliked but that supporting the compromise was the best path forward in hopes of avoiding a debt default as early as Monday. If that were to happen, it could trigger an international financial crisis.
Republicans said the cuts fell far short of the goals they outlined in their own debt-limit legislation that passed in April. Democrats had opposed the slashed funding in the agreement, especially expanded work requirements for childless, nondisabled adults on food assistance.
U.S. Rep. David Scott, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, delivered a short floor speech ahead of the vote praising Biden for fighting against Republicans’ efforts to enact even steeper reductions to welfare and health care programs. He pointed out that the bill even includes language allowing more veterans and people with disabilities to avoid work requirements altogether.
“God bless this president,” Scott said as his time ran out.
Like Williams, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group consisting of the most liberal Democrats in the House. The caucus had been most vocal on the left criticizing the bill’s cost-cutting, but Johnson announced ahead of Wednesday’s vote that he would be a “proud yes.”
The Lithonia Democrat said in statement that Biden had forged a “shrewdly negotiated debt ceiling bill that protects our economy from a catastrophic default, protects against MAGA hostage taking for two years, and protects Americans from cruel MAGA social safety-net cuts.”
The legislation now goes to the Senate, where bipartisan cooperation will be needed to fast-track a vote as soon as Thursday. Congressional leaders said they hoped to get the measure to Biden’s desk by the weekend to help calm financial markets ahead of Monday’s target date to avoid default.
Clyde, who is one of the hard-liners on the right who opposed McCarthy becoming speaker, said he was against the deal from the jump and said earlier in the week that the bill’s passage could raise questions about McCarthy’s leadership.
Under rules that Clyde and other conservatives insisted upon before allowing McCarthy to become speaker, any single member can force a vote on the House floor on removing the speaker from leadership.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Clyde said Tuesday. “Because we’re focused right now on making sure that bill doesn’t pass. If it does pass, then we’ll see where we are.”
Collins announced his opposition on Tuesday, saying he felt Republican negotiators ceded too much power in negotiating with the White House and ended up with a deal that didn’t do enough to cut spending.
Although she is among the far-right members politically, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome supported the deal and defended McCarthy in the wake of criticism from fellow Republicans. In a 19-part thread on Twitter, she highlighted provisions in the bill that she said will make it easier for conservatives to push for spending cuts during the appropriations process for the next fiscal year.
“I know what every hard working American knows: Rome was not built in a day and problems don’t get solved overnight,” she wrote. “It takes tenacious hard work and a commitment to never give up. This is a game of inches and I intend for all of us to win.”
HOW THEY VOTED ON H.R. 3746, the debt-limit bill
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler
U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-The Rock
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton
U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta
U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens
U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Jackson
U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Suwanee
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta