Debt ceiling vote: Live coverage as House moves closer to voting on debt ceiling deal as lawmakers aim to prevent default

WASHINGTON — An agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling is heading for a crucial vote in the House of Representatives later on Wednesday, the next step in averting a potential default now only days away.

The bill, titled the “Fiscal Responsibility Act,” cleared its first major hurdle Tuesday when the House Rules Committee submitted the bill by a 7-6 vote.

The next vote to start debate on the bill, on Wednesday afternoon, was approved by the House 241-187 when about three dozen Democrats joined a Republican majority in voting yes.

Full voting is scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time and the bill is expected to pass as well, but frustration in both parties has led leaders to work around the clock to shore up enough support among their members. The Treasury Department predicts that the government will run out of cash to pay all of its bills by Monday.

“Today we are going through the biggest cut in American history. These are just small steps that put us on the right track,” confident House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters as he entered the Capitol on Wednesday.

McCarthy added that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but going down in history, I want to be here with this bill today.”

The vote will be a major test for the speaker, who faces a potential uprising from conservative hardliners if he fails to get a majority of his conference (112 Republicans) to support the deal.

As of Wednesday morning, 32 House Republicans and counting said they opposed the bill.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the chamber after a procedural vote at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

AP/J's photo. Scott Applewhite

“We're not going to have 218 (Republic)McCarthy told ABC News on Wednesday, acknowledging what had seemed probable for days — his party would need the Democratic vote to pass the bill and raise the debt ceiling.

Such cooperation has been a red flag for other conservatives.

“If a majority of Republicans oppose the law and you use the Democrats to pass it, that would immediately be a black letter violation of the agreement we had with McCarthy… and would likely trigger an immediate motion to vacate,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. , Tuesday on Newsmax.

Representative Ralph Norman, RS.C., told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that McCarthy “lost confidence in the way things were handled.” The speaker dismissed criticism that Republicans were being “tricked” by Democrats.

The motion to vacate, under new House rules approved by McCarthy during the speaker battle in January, will allow only one member of Congress to vote to remove the speaker. A simple majority of the DPR is needed to pass such a motion.

Adding another layer to the GOP discontent is a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that finds the deal would actually increase the number of people eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and increase costs by $2.1 billion.

The terms of employment for SNAP and other federal aid programs are a key issue for Republicans in negotiations between McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

McCarthy said late Tuesday that CBO was “absolutely wrong” and claimed the agency “counted it twice.”

Amid conservative uproar over the bill for cutting too little, McCarthy announced Wednesday the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the federal budget for potential waste to cut.

On the other side of the aisle, House Democrats met behind closed doors with White House negotiators for several hours on Wednesday.

“During the meeting, I made it clear that I would support the existing legislation today and that I support it without hesitation, reservation or trepidation,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Wednesday. “Not that it's perfect, but in a divided government we certainly can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Some progressive Democrats have opposed the bill's terms but two main groups, the 100-member New Democratic Coalition and the 46-member bipartisan Caucus of Troubleshooters, have backed the deal ahead of Wednesday night's vote.

“We continue to maintain that Republican Houses need to keep their commitment to pass 150 resolutions, which they negotiated themselves. And when that happens, Democrats will ensure that there is no default,” Jeffries said.

If it passes the House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said his chamber would take it soon.

“As soon as it's the Senate's turn to act, I cannot stress enough that we have no margin — no margin — for error,” Schumer said in remarks Wednesday. “Either we proceed quickly and send this bipartisan agreement to the president's desk or the federal government will default the first time.”

A potential roadblock is if a filibuster materializes, which can delay the process by up to a week.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave his approval of the bill, calling it a “down payment for more progress yet to come.”

“When this agreement reaches the Senate, I will be proud to support it without delay,” McConnell said Wednesday.

He told reporters that, “what I hope happens is those who have the amendment, if voted on, will turn back time so we can get it done this Thursday or Friday and calm the country and calm the markets.”

-ABC News Trish Turner, Will Steakin, Lauren Peller and Noah Minnie contributed to this report.