(The Hill) — After President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) signed off on a final budget agreement and a raise of the debt ceiling, the two sides moved onto a difficult task: selling the legislation to their respective parties to get it passed through Congress.
Conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats have been quick to voice concerns with certain aspects of the deal, with each side expressing worry that their leadership gained too little or conceded too much in negotiations.
White House officials and McCarthy’s team spent much of Sunday working to spin the deal as a victory for their own side and assure members that it was the other party that ultimately caved on certain priorities.
“Right now the Democrats are very upset,” McCarthy said on “Fox News Sunday,” asserting that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffires (D-N.Y.) told him “there’s not one thing in the bill for Democrats.”
In remarks Sunday evening, Biden said the final agreement “protects key priorities and accomplishments and values that congressional Democrats and I have fought long and hard for.”
Asked what he would say to members who believe Biden made too many concessions, the president responded, “They’ll find I didn’t.”
The White House has focused on reassuring Democrats about the bill largely by pointing to ways that it is significantly watered down from the Republican legislation that passed the House in late April, dubbed the Limit, Save, Grow Act.
While the 99-page bill does include changes to work requirements for government assistance programs, White House officials argued the agreed upon language would have “much less severe consequences” than the House GOP legislation.
The White House has also argued that the overall spending agreements are ultimately a win for Democrats. A White House source argued the deal would help avert “enormous cuts to key programs and investments.”
And officials were also quick to point to key priorities that were left untouched in the final legislation, including that there are no changes to Medicare work requirements and that veterans medical care will be fully funded.
Perhaps the broadest argument the White House will make to persuade Democrats to back the agreement is that passing the bill would mean raising the debt ceiling and averting a default that experts warned could have triggered a recession and sunk the economy that will be central to any reelection campaign for Biden.
While some conservatives had pushed for the debt ceiling to be pushed into 2024, making it an issue in next year’s election, the agreed upon bill would suspend the debt ceiling into 2025.
“We think taking the threat of default off the table into 2025 is a significant upside for the economy, a significant accomplishment,” a White House official said.
Republicans have painted a similarly rosy picture of how the agreed upon text amounts to a victory for their side.
Some in the GOP argued the fact that Republicans pulled the White House to the negotiating table over the budget in order to pass a debt ceiling increase was a win in itself, because it allowed the party to extract some concessions in the process.
“We have something, right? We negotiated,” Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), House GOP conference secretary, told reporters. “Is it what we wanted or what I wanted? No. I wish we would’ve gotten more. It’s clearly better than a clean debt ceiling, that’s for sure.”
But there are also specific policies in the bill that Republican leadership has been keen to highlight to members.
The agreement includes changes to work requirements for food stamps and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
A document distributed to Republican offices about the agreement highlights a rollback of non-defense discretionary spending to fiscal year 2022 levels, while limiting topline federal spending to 1 percent annual growth for six years.
The same document highlighted an agreement to cut a fiscal year 2023 funding request for new IRS agents and a deal to claw back billions of dollars in unspent COVID-19 relief funds, two priorities for Republicans.
In a nod to the GOP’s conservative wing, the deal includes a measure to cap continuing resolution to fund the government at 99 percent of current levels until Congress passes all 12 appropriations bills, an idea that has been backed by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
“The American people elected House Republicans to stop the out-of-control inflationary spending that has broken family budgets,” members of House Republican leadership said in a joint statement on Sunday night. “Today, we secured a historic series of wins worthy of the American people.”
Ultimately, both the White House and Republican leaders only need to convince enough of their respective parties to back the budget agreement so that it gets a majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate.
The rhetoric from Biden and McCarthy on Sunday simultaneously reflected two leaders seeking to portray themselves as having gotten the better side of negotiations, while acknowledging that working in a divided government often means settling for a final product that doesn’t contain every single priority.
“Maybe it doesn’t do everything for everyone, but this is a step in the right direction that no one thought that we would be able to today,” McCarthy told “Fox News Sunday.”
Speaking Sunday evening at the White House, Biden said the deal “represents a compromise, which means no one got everything they want. But that’s the responsibility of governing.”
–Mychael Schnell contributed