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U.S. avoids default as House pushes Debt Ceiling Bill through to the Senate. It was a mixed vote among several Latino members 

The crucial legislation negotiated between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden passed with several Latino lawmakers falling on either side.

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It was a late night on Capitol Hill but Speaker Kevin McCarthy and both House sides were victorious as they passed the bipartisan Debt Ceiling Bill through to the Senate on Wednesday, May 31, avoiding an economic disaster and government shutdown. 

Senators are now currently in a race against the clock to get the legislation approved and to President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature to avoid a national default that Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen said would occur on June 5. 

The legislation from Speaker McCarthy and President Biden passed after an hour of debate by a 314 to 117 vote, in which only a simple majority of 218 was needed. 

The bill negotiated by Biden and McCarthy would postpone the federal debt limit for the next two years to allow the government to continue borrowing the funds necessary to pay its obligations. 

Two years of spending caps and a number of several policy changes will be implemented at the request of Republicans who’ve been openly against the bill. It almost collapsed shortly before reaching the House floor as GOP lawmakers looked to block the legislation. 

Some of the specific logistics surrounding the bill include putting off the $31.4 trillion borrowing limit until January 2025 which would cut federal spending by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 

If passed, stricter work requirements for food stamps would be imposed, and could officially end Biden’s student loan repayment freeze set to expire at the end of the Summer. 

Several of McCarthy’s GOP colleagues feared he’d cave into the Democrats’ wishes as a new figure in high stakes negotiations, but the California Representative claimed political and fiscal wins Wednesday night. 

Some of the measures of the bill that upset several of the House’s progressive Democrats include provisions that would mean receiving unspent money from a previous pandemic relief bill, and reducing $70 billion to $80 billion in new enforcement funding for the I.R.S.

149 Republicans and 165 Democrats voted for the bill while 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats — mostly progressive and far-right lawmakers — voted against the bill in the end. 

For some of the more prominent Latino Congressmembers, it was a mixed vote and the final tally showed. 

The Yeas

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ 3rd District) 

“Tonight I voted for the bipartisan budget agreement to avoid economic catastrophe,” the current candidate for the Senate tweeted. “This is the reality of a divided Congress, and this compromise protects Dems’ historic achievements and prevents extremists from holding AZ families hostage.”

Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA 42nd District)

"I voted yes on President Biden's bipartisan budget agreement because defaulting on our debt is not an option. A default would have crashed our economy and slashed critical social services to millions,” the former Long Beach Mayor said in a statement. 

“This is not a perfect bill and it contains difficult compromises. It's frustrating that House Republicans tried to hold our economy and workers hostage,” he added. “We cannot allow this to happen again and we must be prepared to use the 14th amendment in the future."

Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL 10th District)

“Today I voted YES on the Fiscal Responsibility Act. I commend POTUS for his work in brokering a deal that frees our country from this Republican manufactured crisis of defaulting on our nation’s debt, but I remain concerned about the damaging compromises we had to make,” the gen-z lawmaker said in a series of tweets. 

He cited a win that includes his constituents not having to worry over their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but added that access to SNAP and Temporary Assistance for many will be affected. 

The freshman lawmaker also addressed in his statement, the possible end of Biden’s student loan repayment pause at the conclusion of the summer, saying: “Our people deserve a future where we thrive, not one where our climate is killing us & education is for the elite.”

“This compromise makes one thing clear — we cannot and will not allow our nation to relive this hostage situation again. Once Democrats control both chambers of Congress, we must take swift and bold action to end the threat of the debt ceiling once and for all.”

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA 33rd District)

“Tonight, I voted YES to end the Republican manufactured crisis and avoid default — which would have caused a job-killing recession,” Aguilar said. “Thanks to POTUS, this agreement rejects extreme Republican demands to cut Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ health care.”

The Nays

Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-IL 3rd District)

Rep. Ramirez, who became the first Latina from the Midwest to be elected to Congress last November, went at her Republican colleagues in a statement that suggested the deal is one that represents the GOP holding the American people hostage. 

“Republicans continue to throw the American people and the American economy into chaos by threatening a default on the national debt unless their demands are met,” she said. “They are instead cruel policies to punish everyday people who are already struggling to get by in the face of rising costs for housing, for food, for utilities, and more.”

According to her statement, 1.3 million student loan borrowers in Illinois would have to resume payments, 76,836 members of working families and elderly who depend on TANF cash assistance would be affected, and 1,981,700 single mothers and children counting on SNAP for food, would be affected as well. 

“The hostage situation Republicans forced onto the American people has led to a deal I cannot, in good conscience, support.”

Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA 44th District) 

Rep. Barragán, the recently elected Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in her statement explaining her no vote, credited the president for doing his best to negotiate this kind of deal considering the extreme circumstances and potential consequences had it not been successful, but explained why the deal in the long run only hurts the country. 

“This compromise sets a dangerous precedent for future negotiations, imposes restrictions and cuts funding for programs Americans need, and weakens environmental protections that will primarily harm communities of color and low-income communities. That is why I voted against the bill,” she said. 

She cited the hard-working Americans that will struggle because of the cuts to services like rental assistance, childcare, and education as well as the freezing of federal investments for the next two years. 

As funding will not increase with inflation, it could lead to overall increased costs for those looking to use the services. 

“While people will struggle to put food on the table, the bill does nothing to address tax loopholes or ask the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes,” she concluded. “This package was a political stunt forced by extreme Republican demands, and in the end, hurts American families and endangers communities like mine.”

Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX 35th District) 

Casar, the former Austin City Councilmember, released a statement ahead of the vote Wednesday night. 

“Throughout this manufactured crisis, extremist Republicans have shown their true colors. They don’t care about avoiding default, they only care about their billionaire buddies,” he said. 

The Texas native cited two of the unifying goals among the progressives who voted no — to stop a catastrophic default, and to protect American families’ health care, clean air, and food aid. 

“That’s why some Democrats will vote for the deal to ensure it passes, and some Democrats, like myself, will vote “no” to take a stand against these dangerous Republican attacks on our economy,” he concluded. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY 14th District)

One of the bigger progressive opponents of the bill was AOC, when her office told the Hill that the New York lawmaker would be voting against it. 

This comes after she’d previously told reporters last month that she was against it, citing some of the similar issues that her fellow progressives called out. 

“My red line has already been surpassed,” she said last month. “I mean, where do we start? [No] clean debt ceiling. Work requirements. Cuts to programs. I would never — I would never — vote for that.”

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