After the passage of the debt ceiling deal on Wednesday night, a report emerged from Axios alleging that a “side deal” was made to secure enough Democrat votes. According to that report, the deal would ensure more cash flowed to the districts of Democrats if they voted to advance the bill.
Four Democratic lawmakers said they had been told of a deal, with two saying they believed it involved boosting federal funding for projects in Democrats’ districts — known as earmarks or “community project funding” — if Democrats voted to advance the bill.
That was quickly shot down by not only House Speaker Kevin McCarthy but also Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Both men said there was no deal, and the bill ultimately passed with a 314-117. The supposed side deal would have been about getting the bill to the floor, not the final vote. That effort initially stalled after 29 Republicans voted against it, leaving it up to 52 Democrats to step in to provide the votes.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) disputed four Democratic sources who told Axios the two leaders had cut a deal for Democrats to help advance the debt ceiling bill to a final vote.
Jeffries’ office also denied there was a deal.
“There was no side deal. House Democrats simply did the right thing and made sure the procedural vote passed because failure was not an option,” spokesperson Christie Stephenson told Axios.
So if there was no deal, how did Democrat lawmakers come to believe there was? It’s an interesting thing to speculate over, but the most likely explanation is that Democrats got played by their own leadership. Where else would these left-wing lawmakers get the idea that there was a deal in place that would allow them to claim victory?
Did whoever was helping whip Democrat votes for the procedural hurdle tell their party members that the pot had been sweetened when it really hadn’t been? I wouldn’t put it past Jeffries and his team to start that rumor given how embarrassing it would have been for him to not get the bill over the finish line for President Joe Biden.
Of course, the other explanation is that some Democrat lawmakers started the rumor themselves in an attempt to save face. They are the ones who have to go back to their deep blue districts and explain why they gave in to most Republican demands (as I previously wrote, don’t confuse the GOP political win for the deal actually being good).
Axios has significantly updated its story since the aforementioned denials, so I’m comfortable in concluding that there was indeed no side deal. That’s a good thing. Had McCarthy actually done that, it would have caused pandemonium within the party, and such a bait and switch might have actually put him in danger of losing his position. I don’t think that’s the kind of leader he is, and though I don’t like the deal from a purist conservative viewpoint (who would?), I understand the headwinds he’s working against. Unless he actually does something untoward to his caucus, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.