WASHINGTON — Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that the House will pass his $1.5 trillion debt ceiling increase plan this week, but he dodged when asked if he has already secured the 218 Republican votes he needs.

“We will hold a vote this week and we will pass it,” McCarthy said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Congress Debt

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday. McCarthy is working to round up the Republican votes needed to pass his debt ceiling package. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Asked if he has the votes, McCarthy noted he has a “very small majority” margin where just five defectors can sink a bill.

“I cannot imagine someone in our conference that would want to go along with (President) Biden’s reckless spending,” he said.

McCarthy’s proposal would increase the nation’s debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion, to stave off a U.S. payments default until March 31, 2024, at the latest. It aims to trim $4.5 trillion in spending over a decade, in part by cutting discretionary spending by $130 billion next year and capping its growth at 1%.

The bill, a grab bag of conservative measures, would ease energy regulations, end clean energy tax breaks, rescind unspent COVID-19 funds, and impose new work requirements on adults without children who receive Medicaid and food stamps.

As of Friday, McCarthy’s top lieutenants were seeking to lock down the votes for the bill. Moderates in the conference were refusing to commit, while conservatives were angling to further increase new work requirements on Medicaid recipients and Midwestern lawmakers were looking to shield biofuels tax breaks from elimination.

McCarthy used the Sunday interview to reiterate his argument that President Biden, in refusing to hold talks on the debt ceiling, is pushing the U.S. toward a payments default, which could happen as soon as June. Biden last week called the GOP plan “wacko.”

“We are the only ones who are putting a responsible plan out that will raise the debt limit,” McCarthy said. He said he wants the bill to form the basis of talks on a compromise and he’d be open to a larger debt ceiling increase that staves off a default past next March.

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