May 25, 2023 3 min read

Expecting a Debt Deal

Expecting a Debt Deal
Photo by Malek Jamal / Unsplash

Our good friend Jim Lucier of Capital Alpha is one of the best Washington watchers we know. He has given us permission to share his latest thoughts on the debt ceiling issue with you. His basic message is that this too shall pass. Here are some of his main points from his commentary today:

(1) We think that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will be able to round up fully two-thirds of the House Republican conference in support of the deal he is negotiating with President Biden. Of course, that depends on the terms of the deal, but we expect that McCarthy will be close to two-thirds and maybe even deliver three-fourths of the conference. A two-thirds majority of the conference would mean that McCarthy loses only 74 votes. A three-quarters majority would mean that McCarthy loses only 55.

(2) The protests of conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats are music to our ears. They are the sound of a deal being done. The individuals who are complaining are those who were never likely to vote for the bill in the first place. They were factored into our math long ago.

(3) We think that House Republicans are generally united and enthusiastic. Even Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) says that McCarthy is doing a good job. Gaetz was McCarthy’s most bitter antagonist in the contested election for speaker last January. But McCarthy has been running a textbook campaign of member management since then. He has paid due attention to all factions of the House Republican conference and has done reasonably well in addressing their concerns. In retrospect, we think it is clear that McCarthy has in fact been whipping Republicans since January to get them ready for game day, which is now.

(4) House Democrats, by contrast, have been surprised by McCarthy’s success and blindsided by the White House Legislative Affairs team and the president in his decision to open talks with McCarthy. They are unhappy and angry. They want to know how this happened and why. Eventually, behind closed doors, the White House will have some explaining to do. Still, as we indicated in a previous note, we think that there is a gettable universe of 88 Democratic votes in the House if one looks to members of the president’s party in swing to moderately partisan Democratic districts, as ranked by the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

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