Pressley and McGovern voted against debt ceiling bill, citing SNAP cuts and end of student loan pause

The U.S. Capitol is seen at sunset on May 31, 2023, at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)
The U.S. Capitol is seen at sunset on May 31, 2023, at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

The U.S. House passed a compromise bill Wednesday night to avert a debt ceiling crisis. However, not all Massachusetts representatives were on board.

While seven of the state's nine Democratic representatives voted in favor of the deal, Reps. Jim McGovern and Ayanna Pressley voted against, citing concerns over cuts to government programs, like food stamps.

"No deal should ever compromise the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. I’m grateful for President Biden's efforts to protect so many — but, for me, there are too many still left unprotected," McGovern said in a tweet.

Pressley called the deal, which tied suspension of the debt limit to a slew of spending cuts, a "false choice" between economic catastrophe and government programs. In particular, she pushed back against a provision in the bill that would end the pause on student loan payments by Sept. 1. (The Biden administration had already said loan repayments would resume in September, but this bill would prevent him from extending it, as he has already done multiple times.)

On Wednesday, the day of the vote, Pressley filed an amendment in a failed attempt to remove that provision.

Other provisions that made its way into the approved bill include stricter work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps; and a return of $27 billion in unspent COVID from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.

The deal also promises to cut the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, according an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. This is a win for some Republicans who were keen on getting government spending under control, and who entered negotiations with a proposal to cut fiscal 2024 well below the current spending level, as well as capping annual growth.

The seven other Massachusetts representatives who did vote for the deal, which is called the Fiscal Responsibility Act, said they were focused on avoiding an unprecedented debt default.

After the vote, Congresswoman and House minority whip Katherine Clark tweeted, "From the beginning of this manufactured crisis, [House Democrats] have been committed to doing what is responsible — preventing a catastrophic default and protecting the services everyday Americans rely on. Tonight, we upheld that commitment."

Rep. Lori Trahan called the compromise "far from perfect." However, “it ends the threat of a default … and defeats the GOP’s most extreme demands,” she said on Twitter.

"Like many Members, I dislike the GOP hypocrisy and brinkmanship that drove negotiations, and I disagree with elements of the deal. But governing requires compromise, not absolutism," said Rep. Jake Auchincloss in a Twitter statement ahead of the vote.

The U.S. Senate must vote on the bill next and President Joe Biden must sign off on it ahead of the Monday deadline.

WBUR's Nik DeCosta-Klipa contributed to this reporting.


Vanessa Ochavillo Associate Producer
Vanessa Ochavillo is an associate producer for WBUR focused on digital news.



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