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Debt ceiling deal to prevent default faces first big test in key House committee

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(WASHINGTON) — The debt ceiling deal brokered by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces its first major test Tuesday, just days before a potential default.

With little time for delay, the powerful House Rules Committee, which controls how, when and whether a measure will be handled on the House floor, meets at 3 p.m. to consider the Fiscal Responsibility Act..

It will decide whether to advance the legislation so the full House can hold a planned vote on Wednesday and send it to the Senate ahead of Monday’s default deadline.

But at least two GOP members of the 13-person panel — made up of nine Republicans and four Democrats — have vowed to block the bill: Republican Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of North Carolina.

The two hard-liners are members of the House Freedom Caucus, and the group will hold its own press conference hours ahead of the committee meeting where Roy and other members are expected to voice their criticism.

The deciding vote in Tuesday’s Rules Committee meeting could come down to Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., another GOP hardliner and fiscal hawk who hasn’t made his position entirely clear.

If Massie backs the measure, it will be pushed through. But if he joins Roy and Norman in opposing the bill in committee, Republicans will need one Democrat to vote in favor to move the bill forward, though the minority panel members usually vote against the majority in such procedural actions.

Potentially complicating the matter further is Roy’s suggestion that McCarthy, during his speakership battle in January, agreed that “nothing would pass the Rules Committee” without seven Republican votes and the panel “would not allow reporting out rules without unanimous Republican votes.” Though the rules package passed in January doesn’t include such language.

Speaker McCarthy told reporters Monday he wasn’t worried about the committee meeting.

Getting the bill through Congress will hinge on support from moderates in both parties. The White House and Republican leaders have been holding calls and briefings to sell the deal, with more meetings planned, ABC News has reported.

Lawmakers face a time crunch to pass the debt ceiling deal because Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned the “X-date” — when the government could run out cash to pay all its bills in full and on time — could happen as early as June 5.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said his chamber will take up the bill as soon as it passes the House. He advised his colleagues to prepare for possible Friday and weekend votes if there’s not unanimous cooperation.

If there’s a filibuster, it could push the chamber past the June 5 default deadline. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has previously threatened to “use every procedural tool at my disposal to impede a debt-ceiling deal” he didn’t agree with.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act includes a two-year government budget in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling through Jan. 1, 2025.

The bill would keep non-defense spending flat in fiscal 2024 and increase levels by 1% in fiscal 2025.

Despite pushback from both wings of the parties, McCarthy and Biden have expressed optimism the deal will be approved by Congress.

President Biden’s chief economic adviser, Lael Brainard, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the agreement “has something from everyone.”

“As I am hearing from members, they generally believe this is a good deal,” Brainard said Tuesday on Good Morning America.

ABC’s Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

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