WASHINGTON — Minnesota Republicans splintered on the bill to steer clear of a potential default and suspend the debt ceiling into early 2025 while every House Democrat from the state backed the bipartisan deal.
GOP Reps. Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber voted in favor Wednesday night while fellow Republicans Michelle Fischbach and Brad Finstad voted no.
"As a conservative, do I think this package is perfect? No, I would much rather have the Limit, Save, Grow Act signed into law," Stauber said in a statement, referring to an earlier Republican bill. "But the realities of governing right now are that a deal with spending cuts is better than no spending cuts at all."
Minnesota's two Democratic senators voted for the bill Thursday night. The Senate passed the measure 63-36 and the House 314-117.
The agreement reached by Democratic President Joe Biden and GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy also includes spending limits and expands federal food assistance work requirements for some, among other changes.
"While I believe Speaker McCarthy did the best he could in negotiations, this agreement is further proof that President Biden and Democrats are unwilling to admit the damage their spending has caused for Americans," Fischbach said in a statement on her vote.
Congress faces a crucial June 5 deadline to address the debt ceiling before the federal government could default on its debts.
"Nothing in the compromise to me is a deal-breaker, particularly because the alternative would be catastrophic," Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips said ahead of the vote.
House Republicans passed their more conservative bill earlier this year to address the debt ceiling, but it was doomed in the Democrat-led Senate.
Emmer, the House majority whip tasked with gathering support for GOP legislation, has also been a champion of the bipartisan agreement. He called it "a major victory for Republicans" during a CNN appearance Wednesday morning.
"Republicans passed a bill to avoid default more than a month ago and it took the president, the White House, more than 100 days to actually sit down and start getting serious," said Emmer, the third-ranking House Republican.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the bill would shrink projected budget deficits by about $1.5 trillion over a decade.
The three Minnesota House Democrats in Washington this week joined Emmer and Stauber in voting for the bill. Democratic Rep. Angie Craig planned to vote for the bill, but her office announced earlier that she suffered an ankle injury and was getting surgery that kept her away for the vote.
Fischbach and Finstad were among the 71 GOP House lawmakers to oppose the deal, known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
"Unfortunately, for me, the deal outlined in the Fiscal Responsibility Act doesn't go far enough to address the key drivers of our national debt and falls short of the necessary reforms to fix a broken Washington," Finstad said in a statement.
The bill also faced clear concerns from progressives, with 46 House Democrats voting no. Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, voted in favor of the bill, but excoriated Republicans in a statement.
"President Biden deserves credit for decreasing the ransom these hostage-takers demanded and for staving off even worse cuts for Minnesotans, but this is no way to legislate in a democracy," Omar said.
While Democrats had wanted to simply raise the debt ceiling, the GOP's control of the House gave them sizable leverage to push for spending cuts and other conservative goals. But the concessions won by Republicans in the final bill were far less expansive than some on the right wanted.
"While we at Second Harvest Heartland are disappointed that the agreement reached by House Republicans and President Biden includes additional restrictions on [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits, we are also relieved that they are both narrower in scope than originally proposed and temporary," said Allison O'Toole, chief executive officer of the food bank, in a statement.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith both backed the compromise.
"When you have the state of the country's economy right in front of you and you also have the opportunity to make sure that you protect priorities and you also reduce the deficit, you forge what agreement you can," Klobuchar told reporters on a Zoom call earlier.
Smith announced in a statement Thursday morning that she'll vote for the legislation, calling it "the only realistic legislative path we have to save the United States from default." But Smith also called for an end to the debt ceiling.
"We can't ever again allow the full faith and credit of the United States of America to be held ransom," Smith said. "The debt ceiling must be eliminated."