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Debt ceiling deal made it out of the rules committee and heads to the House floor

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The government is counting down the days before it runs out of money to pay its bills. A bipartisan deal to avoid a debt default made it out of the House Rules Committee last night and is heading to the floor today. But it's unclear whether it's got the votes to pass. Members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus are bashing the compromise. South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman said this on MORNING EDITION yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RALPH NORMAN: The bill, as is, is unacceptable.

FADEL: To understand what this means for Republican support for this bill, we turn now to GOP strategist Brendan Buck. He's advised congressional leaders for years, including House speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan. Good morning, Brendan.

BRENDAN BUCK: Good morning.

FADEL: So in your view, does House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have enough support from his party to get this deal to pass in the House today?

BUCK: Well, it's going to have to be a bipartisan vote, that's for sure, By the nature of a bipartisan agreement between the Republican speaker and a Democratic president, McCarthy is definitely going to be counting on a number of Democrats to help carry this over the line, to get the necessary support.

The real number that I think he's looking at is, does this vote get a majority of the Republican votes in the House? That's a real test for any speaker. Do you actually control your conference? And so that magic number for him is 112. And if he can get anything north of there, I think his political fortunes are OK. But again, that will require some cooperation and some Democrats to come along and help pass this. And I know a lot of them are grumpy about that. But I do expect, overall, between the two parties, there will be enough support, and we'll be able to send this over to the Senate later tonight.

FADEL: What do you think about McCarthy's grasp on leadership, you know? We heard South Carolina's Ralph Norman call this a bad deal. Another Freedom Caucus member said no Republican should vote for it. And Representative Dan Bishop of North Carolina went even further, saying he'd support ousting McCarthy over this bipartisan deal. Could this GOP, far-right rebellion cost McCarthy the speakership?

BUCK: It's certainly possible. But at this point, it doesn't feel like it's going to.

FADEL: OK.

BUCK: Yes, Dan Bishop threw that out there. And I haven't heard a whole lot of people backing him up on it. And some of the most likely people to jump in and echo those calls have sort of demurred and said, no, I don't think that that's time right now. Again, I think it comes back to whether or not he can get most Republicans to vote for something. And that's always been a principle that conservatives have said, don't bring anything up to the floor unless a majority of our party supports it. And this feels like it's headed in that direction.

Now, if it ends up short of there, you could see some trouble. But it feels like even the people who were most resistant to McCarthy becoming speaker have come around on him. He's very - from the very beginning of this conference, he spent a lot of time and effort building goodwill, putting points on the board, making them feel good. And it feels like he's won some converts. Perhaps the honeymoon is over after this vote. But I don't think that his job is in any real danger at this point.

FADEL: Now, in order to become speaker, McCarthy went through 15 rounds of votes. And to finally get enough support, he agreed to let any lawmaker call a snap vote to try to oust him. Do you think that might come into play?

BUCK: Yeah. Certainly, Dan Bishop or any one single member can trigger a vote to remove him. And there's a narrow majority, you know? As speaker, you really never want to have to rely on the minority party to save your job. So he could only afford to lose four members on that vote So far, I think we've only got one member who has said he's going to do that. And there's a good chance that Democrats, I think, would come in at that point and also vote to preserve his job. It feels like this is the normal anger you get from conservatives when they have to do a bipartisan deal. And we see it every time we do a bipartisan fiscal measure. You hear the far right get really angry and upset and make threats. Very rarely do they actually ever follow through on these threats.

So I'm expecting that there will be a lot of fury and a lot of noise. But ultimately, this will move through the House. And ultimately, I think Kevin McCarthy is going to remain speaker for some time to be. This is actually a pretty impressive performance, I think, from him, navigating the difficulties of this. I know from experience passing a debt limit is one of the hardest things Republicans have to do. And I think he's actually managed to pull it off quite well.

FADEL: GOP strategist Brendan Buck. Thanks for joining us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.