California House members didn’t like the debt limit bill. Here’s why most voted ‘yes’ anyway

Rep. Tom McClintock voted for the debt limit deal, saying it wasn’t perfect but had a lot of good points.

Rep. Tom McClintock voted for the debt limit deal, saying it wasn’t perfect but had a lot of good points.

AP file

California House members were predictably unenthusiastic about much of the debt limit compromise. But most felt they had little choice Wednesday but to vote “yes.”

“With both a Senate and president of decidedly different views, the outcome is always going to be a disappointment compared to what a purely-Republican bill would do,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove.

Democrats also had a mixed reaction. “The alternative is a self-induced economic calamity that would devastate Central Coast families through a job-killing recession, massive losses in retirement accounts, higher costs, and a crippling of the American economy unlike any we have seen in generations,” said Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara.

The House passed the debt limit agreement on a 314 to 117 vote, with 165 Democrats joining 149 Republicans in a rare show of bipartisan support. Republicans run the House, as they have 222 of the 435 seats.

All 12 California Republicans, and all but 11 of the state’s Democrats, voted for the bill.

The plan, which reduces future spending and suspends the current debt limit until January 2025, goes to the Senate Thursday.

It will have four days to pass the measure before the Treasury predicts the government will run out of money to pay all its bills. Approval in the Democratic-run Senate is eventually expected.

The budget package was the product of intense negotiations by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and passed after intense lobbying.

Reluctant Republicans

“This bill still falls short of the significant adjustments to overall federal spending needed to restore fiscal responsibility to our government and put us on a path towards a balanced budget,” said Rep. Jay Oberolte, R-Hesperia, who praised the spending reductions and the lack of any new taxes..

McClintock also hailed the spending restraints and called those reductions “the most important victory for fiscal conservatives in more than a decade. “

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, tweeted the package was “only possible because @SpeakerMcCarthy & @HouseGOP were united in taking action & forcing @POTUS to the negotiating table. The bill avoids a catastrophic default while limiting spending and cutting red tape.”

Rep. John Duarte, R-Modesto, praised the bill as a plan to get the nation’s “financial house in order,” while protecting “Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits for generations to come.”

A debt limit breach would put those payments due after June 5 in jeopardy.

Doubting Democrats

California Democrats often split somewhat between center-left and liberals. The 11 dissenters tended to come from the Bay area and Los Angeles.

Other Democrats had misgivings about the bill, though lawmakers from the Sacramento, Modesto, Fresno, Merced and San Luis Obispo areas tend to go along with House leaders, and did so again Wednesday.

Among the no votes were Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael and Ro Khanna, D-Fremont. Huffman said the legislation “consists entirely of odious concessions to Republicans.” Khanna predicted the agreement “will cause millions of Americans to suffer so Republicans can score political points.”

Many of those who voted yes were unenthusiastic about the bill.

“While this legislation is not perfect, it prevents a default that would have been catastrophic for Sacramento County seniors, veterans, and our economy,” said Rep. Ami Bera, D-Sacramento.

“This bill is not perfect, but it honors America’s financial obligations to pay our bills,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said there were parts he didn’t like, but said the bill would “prevent a default on our debt while rejecting extreme demands from the Republicans.”

This story was originally published May 31, 2023, 7:28 PM.

David Lightman is McClatchy’s chief congressional correspondent. He’s been writing, editing and teaching for nearly 50 years, with stops in Hagerstown, Maryland; Riverside, California; Annapolis; Baltimore; and, since 1981, Washington.

Gillian Brassil is the congressional reporter for McClatchy’s California publications. She covers federal policies, people and issues that impact the Golden State from Capitol Hill. She graduated from Stanford University.

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