Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
💎 Access the Market Tools Trusted by Thousands of Investors Get Started

Explainer-US debt ceiling deal's winding road to passage in Congress

Published May 28, 2023 01:06AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. A person sits outside the U.S. Capitol after U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reached a tentative deal with President Joe Biden to raise the United States' debt ceiling and avoid a catastrophic default, in Washington, U.S. May 27, 2023. REUTERS/Na

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic President Joe Biden and top congressional Republican Kevin McCarthy struck a deal on Saturday to suspend the federal government's $31.4 trillion limit on U.S. government borrowing, in order to avert a catastrophic default as soon as June 5.

Their challenge isn't over. They now have to shepherd it through the deep partisan fractures of the narrowly Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-controlled Senate:


Biden and House Speaker McCarthy gave a green light to the deal drafted by their respective aides during closed-door negotiations over the past several days.

It needs to be written into legislation, which McCarthy said would happen on Sunday. Then, McCarthy has vowed to give House members 72 hours to read it, and passage through the House and Senate will each take several more days.

There is little time. The Treasury Department has warned that the federal government will be unable to pay all its bills on June 5.

The top Republicans and Democrats in both chambers have already scheduled or held meetings to educate their rank-and-file about details of the bill in a bid to convince potential opponents to fall in line.

This is a key moment, as Republican and Democratic "whips" will count supporters and opponents. A revolt by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has plenty of sway with McCarthy, could derail the effort if its members believe the deal does not sufficiently cut spending.

Some liberal Democrats, meanwhile, could vote against the bill if they believe it cedes too much ground to Republicans.

With whip counts in hand, McCarthy will have to decide whether the bill has a strong enough chance of passing to proceed. If not, he could either not hold a vote on the bill and go back to the drawing board, or take the riskier step of sending it to the full House in the hope of eking out a win.


If things look dire at any point, the House could resort to a rarely employed emergency maneuver: A "discharge petition" to bring a "clean" debt limit increase - with no budget provisions attached - to a vote. House Democrats have backed this idea but could not succeed unless enough of the Republican majority joined them.

Biden could attempt the untested legal theory of invoking the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment stating that "the validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned" and thus clear the way for him to authorize more borrowing. That would likely be challenged immediately in the courts.


The House, which Republicans control by a narrow 222-213 majority, is expected to act first. A simple majority - at least 218 votes if all members are present - will be needed for passage.

Bipartisanship will be required as some far-right Republicans or some liberal Democrats unhappy with the outcome could vote no.

House debate and passage, including preliminary votes, could take a day or two.


If passed by the House, the legislation goes to the Senate where Democrats hold a 51-49 majority over Republicans. As in the House, a vote on passage might not break purely along party lines, as individual senators from each party could find different reasons for opposing the bill.

To pass, the measure would need the support of at least nine Republicans to clear the chamber's "filibuster" rule, which requires 60 of the 100 members to advance most legislation.

Senate consideration of the bill could take up most of a week.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has full control over when the bill comes up for a vote. But individual senators can slow the process by insisting on procedural maneuvers, including 30 hours of debate on whether to begin debate and another 30 hours of debate on the bill itself.

The Senate would need to pass the bill without any changes to the House measure. Otherwise it would have to go back to the House for another vote.

If there were to be a 50-50 tie in the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the vote to win 51-50 passage.

Upon passage by the House and Senate, the deal would go to the White House for Biden to sign into law.

Explainer-US debt ceiling deal's winding road to passage in Congress

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.
  • Any comment you publish, together with your profile, will be public on and may be indexed and available through third party search engines, such as Google.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (2)
Rafat Shamali
Rafat Shamali May 28, 2023 7:40AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
american movies :))))))))))))
jason xx
jason xx May 28, 2023 7:05AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
The cancerous house freedom cult wont agree to anything that doesn't help make traitor trump president. Mccarthy doesn't need any of them to support the deal they only have a few person majority.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email