May 31, 2023
By Kelly Laco
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik is declaring total victory over President Biden on the debt ceiling messaging war, and praising House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ‘strong leadership’ to get the debt deal across the finish line despite Republican holdouts.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck a deal with Biden to raise the debt ceiling through 2025, claw back $29 billion in unspent COVID funds and $21 billion from the IRS’s $80 billion purse and pause Biden’s student loan repayments. But hard line conservatives including those on the House Freedom Caucus said the 99-page bill doesn’t go far enough to curb federal spending and is a ‘blank check’ for Democrats.
71 GOP defectors voted ‘no’ on the bill’s final passage, as well as a handful of progressives. As a result, McCarthy was forced to rely on 165 Democrat ‘yes’ votes to counteract the GOP ‘nos’ in order to pass the bill in a 314 to 117 vote.
Stefanik, R-N.Y., told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview that the passage of the deal is a ‘historic win for Speaker Kevin McCarthy, but most importantly for the American people.’
‘I think it’s very important we’re working in the House to stand up for fiscal responsibility. And this is a big win for Speaker Kevin McCarthy and for all of the House Republicans,’ she said.
‘So, despite the mainstream media trying to sow discord, this is a win across the board. We cleaned Joe Biden’s and the Democrats clocks on this issue on the messaging and on the policy wins.’
When asked if she has discussed the deal with former President Donald Trump, who she has already endorsed for president in 2024, Stefanik kept her cards close to her chest.
‘I speak to President Trump on a regular basis and I’m not going to comment,’ she responded to DailyMail.com.
Trump has been noticeably silent on the deal, despite his fellow 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls openly criticizing the legislation.
Stefanik also blamed the ‘mainstream media trying to sow discord’ for House Freedom Caucus members possibly calling for a ‘motion to vacate’ to strip McCarthy of his speaker’s gavel.
Disgruntled House Freedom Caucus members Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Dan Bishop, R-N.C., floated the idea of possibly stripping McCarthy of his leadership position by calling for a ‘motion to vacate.’
As part of a previous deal to become speaker, McCarthy agreed to a rules change that allowed for a single member motion to vacate. That means it only takes one member of Congress from either party to call the motion and strip the speaker of his gavel if a simple majority votes in favor.
Their fellow Freedom Caucus Republican Ken Buck, R-Colo., went farther Wednesday, saying McCarthy ‘will win the vote tonight, but after this vote we will have discussions about whether there should be a motion to vacate or not.’
But Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., told reporters although McCarthy has ‘lost some trust,’ he’s ‘not going there,’ when asked about the motion to vacate.
She said following the House Republican Conference’s three-hour-long meeting Tuesday night, she knew the GOP would get the deal done.
‘The facts are: this is the largest deficit decrease in history,’ Stefanik said.
‘This is win after win, whether it’s the deficit reduction, whether it’s the work requirements, whether it’s the SNAP reforms. This is a historic win, not just for the Republicans, but most importantly for the American people.’
Stefanik also addressed criticism from the far-right that the deal didn’t do enough to claw back the 87,000 new IRS agents hired under Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act. The bill cuts $21 billion of the $80 billion allotted under the IRA to the IRS, and takes back $1.4 billion immediately.
‘There are no new IRS agents this year, we will continue to fight these battles out in the appropriations process,’ Stefanik told DailyMail.com.
‘And certainly we are going to stand up to defund the full army of Joe Biden’s IRS agents,’ Stefanik continued.
The McCarthy-Biden deal would require Congress to approve 12 annual spending bills or face a snapback to spending limits from the previous year.
As for the $4 trillion spending estimate that holdout Republicans have been touting as a reason to vote against the bill, Rep. Dusty Johnson called it ‘one of the most genuine disingenuous arguments of the opponents.’
‘This is a major, major win,’ he insisted saying that both the House-passed Limit, Save, Grow Act and the McCarthy-Biden deal would ‘add trillions to the debt.’
Rep. Jason Smith, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, added that ‘nowhere’ in the 99-page bill does it say the debt limit will be increased to $4 trillion – a key talking point of the GOP defectors.
‘What it does show is that it moves to the date of January 2025,’ he told DailyMail.com, also saying that Congress would only hit the $4 trillion figure if Congress appropriates that spending.’
‘That’s where the true fight is with every member of Congress is in,’ he said regarding the appropriations process.
An aide for Stefanik told DailyMail.com that by sticking to ‘winning message issues’ that are supported by the majority of Americans, including energy, unspent COVID funds and work requirements, the GOP beat out Biden on the deal’s key points.
At one point, Stefanik steered members away from trying to include health care in negotiations because it doesn’t have clear support and is more difficult to message.
By clearly defining how Biden and House Democrats ’caused the debt crisis’ with their Inflation Reduction Act and highlighting the president’s previous support for work requirements when he was a senator and support for negotiations, the Republicans gained an upper hand, Stefanik added.
Stefanik ramped up small member message meetings and newly-formed ‘Tiger Teams’ that were deployed on media calls to push GOP messaging.
The leader of the Democrats in the House – Rep. Hakeem Jeffries – had promised Democratic support for the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and told reporters Wednesday that he would be voting for it himself.
In addition, the New Democrat Coalition which has over 100 members comprised by center-left Democrats in the House said its members will support the deal in a statement Monday.
Progressives had expressed opposition to some of the proposed changes to work requirements in social programs including food stamps.
The Biden-McCarthy deal delivers on a long time Republican priority of expanding work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
While there are already work requirements for most able-bodied adults between 18 and 49, the bill raises the age limit to 54, but has an expiration date and would lower the age right back down to 49 in 2030.
The agreement would also make changes to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which gives cash aid to families with children.
While not going as far as the House-passed bill had proposed, the deal would make adjustments to a credit that allows states to require fewer recipients to work, updating and readjusting the credit to make it harder for states to avoid.