February 25, 2021

As Vote Looms, Leaders Court Skeptics

With only hours left before Tuesday’s looming deadline that carries the threat of a federal default, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived at the Capitol on Monday morning for back-to-back, closed-door meetings with Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate. Republicans in the House and Senate also huddled in advance of the votes.

The last-minute wrangling on Monday morning reflected the lack of enthusiasm for the debt deal as lawmakers, party activists and pundits expressed relief but little excitement for a compromise that appears to have left few partisans eagerly promoting the deal as the one they wanted.

On the Senate floor on Monday, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said: “People on the right are upset. People on the left are upset. People in the middle are upset.”

But he called it a “remarkable agreement which will protect the long-term health of our economy.”

In his first public comments since the deal was reached Sunday night, Mr. Boehner on Monday hailed the agreement for providing a path toward a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

“It gives us the best shot that we’ve had in the 20 years that I’ve been here to build support for a balanced budget amendment,” he said.

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, said the deal is “not perfect,” but said its passage will begin the process of changing the political culture in Washington.

“The big win here for us, and for the American people, is the fact that there are no tax hikes in this package,” Mr. Cantor said. “The last thing we need is tax hikes.”

The House moved Monday toward an afternoon vote, but it remained unclear whether the Senate would follow suit by the end of the day. Mr. Reid told his colleagues Monday afternoon that a final vote on the measure could be brought up Monday night or Tuesday.

A sense of exuberance over the weekend compromise gave way to a daylong expression of grievances.

Mr. Biden spent hours on Capitol Hill, listening and gently persuading Democrats to vote for the plan. His meeting with House members lingered far beyond its allotted time, as several representatives voiced their strong objections to what they perceived as a deal cut on the back of poor and working-class Americans, with no sacrifice by the rich in the form of tax increases.

“I wouldn’t call it anger, but we are perplexed that it has turned out like it has,” said Representative G.K. Butterfield, Democrat of North Carolina, grimacing as he left the meeting. “But we’ve run out of options and we know the consequences. I’ve heard horror stories from the Great Depression. I don’t want my fingerprints on that.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, reminded her fellow Democrats of the consequences if the deal would collapse. She did not twist arms or deliver stern remarks, several legislators said, but rather urged them to vote their conscience.

Representative Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, said he had deep reservations about the budget compromise, declaring: “This is a hard compromise. But he added that the “ramifications would be long” if the deal did not go through.

Several Democrats said they were reserving judgment until the voting actually began, when it became clear how many votes that Democratic leaders needed to deliver. Republican leaders were embroiled in their own challenge of trying to persuade conservatives to sign onto the plan, reminding them that the deal did not include raising taxes.

Most of the leading 2012 Republican presidential candidates weighed in Monday in opposition to the debt ceiling deal, saying that it did too little to address the nation’s spending problem. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, said the deal “opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table.”

But business groups urged passage as the United States stock market initially rallied before sinking again on disappointing manufacturing news. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that the agreement “takes us a step in the right direction and is the right thing to do.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=01b40c80364f098b80b75c80ada4fa68

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