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House Republicans are charging forward with a high-stakes vote on legislation to raise the debt ceiling and cut federal spending, even as internal divisions cast doubt on whether Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be able to keep his narrow majority behind the effort.

GOP leaders are eyeing a Wednesday vote on the proposal, which would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion until May 2024 in exchange for slashing spending by more than $4.8 trillion. The House Rules Committee was working on the bill late Tuesday night.

“We’re going to pass this [Wednesday],” said House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, Minnesota Republican.

Mr. Emmer made the prediction even as he and other GOP leaders worked to convince moderate and conservative holdouts to back the measure. Several GOP lawmakers were balking at proposals such as ending ethanol subsidies and eliminating tax credits. 

The vote is a crucial test of Mr. McCarthy’s ability to keep Republicans in line for a showdown with President Biden over spending and debt limits, with the government facing a default deadline in early summer for exceeding its borrowing limit of about $31 trillion.

The White House said Mr. Biden would veto the measure if it reaches his desk, calling it a “ransom note” from House Republicans that would slash a wide array of services for Americans. 

“Americans won’t forget House Republicans’ celebration of slashing fundamental programs that our families, seniors, and veterans count on every day,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The GOP bill would cut federal spending by $130 billion for the upcoming fiscal year and limit future budget growth to 1% annually over the next decade. It also rescinds at least $90.5 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief and $200 billion in green energy tax credits passed by Democrats last year.

Republicans also aim to cancel Mr. Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates will save $315 billion over the next decade. 

Mr. McCarthy‘s allies are telling wayward Republicans that voting for the debt limit bill does not mean it will become lawfully intact. Instead, they say it will strengthen the speaker’s hand to begin negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate and Mr. Biden on raising the debt limit.

“That is our first offer in this debt ceiling negotiation,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, North Carolina Republican, said. “We’ll see if the president’s willing to come to the table and negotiate as previous presidents have.”

“This legislation is just a first step toward getting our fiscal house in order and a good faith effort to bring the president to the negotiating table,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington, Texas Republican. “

House GOP leaders are refusing to entertain amendments or changes to the 320-page debt limit bill, saying doing so would push back the timeline for passage and make Mr. McCarthy look weak as he seeks to start negotiations with Mr. Biden.

“We’re done negotiating, and we’re gonna get this bill through,” said House GOP Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson, Lousiana Republican. “I think we’re close. No changes.”

Outside of spending cuts and revoking tax credits, Republicans want to impose new requirements that individuals work at least 20 hours per week to qualify for Medicaid, food stamps, and direct cash payments. They further propose to increase the age limit for work requirements from 49 to 55.

CBO estimates the changes would reduce federal spending by $120 billion through 2033.

The savings would come at a cost, as CBO estimates that 600,000 individuals would lose access to Medicaid over the next decade, while 275,000 people would lose food stamp benefits each month. A further 19,000 people would see their food stamps benefits reduced.  

Republicans say the changes are necessary because welfare rolls have swelled in recent years. 

“The work requirements in this bill will help more Americans get back in the workforce,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, Missouri Republican. “Today’s workforce participation rate is still behind where it was before the pandemic.”

Not all Republicans believe the work requirements go far enough, however. For example, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, said he would vote against the bill unless work requirements were tightened. And Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, said he is “dubious” about the overall measure; Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee said he is opposed. 

Hardline conservatives within the House Freedom Caucus are pushing to increase work requirements on entitlement programs to 30 hours a week. They also want the requirements to kick in starting next year, rather than 2025 as currently provided for in the bill.

That’s a tough sell for moderate Republicans, especially those from districts that Mr. Biden carried in 2020.

“We’re trying to craft these requirements to ensure that people who are ready and able to work do so,” said one centrist GOP lawmaker. “We’re not looking to force people who genuinely can’t get off the rolls just to save a dime or a dollar.”

While divisions linger over how strenuous to make the work requirements, the push to repeal more than $200 billion in green energy tax credits is making other lawmakers squeamish.

“In a state like South Carolina, we have a lot of solar farms and solar energy, both residential and commercial,” said Rep. Nancy Mace, South Carolina Republican. “I want to find out and figure out what kind of adverse impact it might have on the state of South Carolina.”

Climate friendly Republicans like Ms. Mace are not the only ones feeling conflicted. Midwest conservatives representing farm country are also troubled about the proposed repeal of ethanol subsidies.

Mr. Biden‘s $739 billion climate change bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, included billions in new incentives for corn-based ethanol and other biofuels.

Overall, the law includes a new sustainable aviation fuel tax credit, $5 billion in drought assistance and more than $3 billion in farm debt relief. It also invested $500 million in biofuel infrastructure, including technology to expand the blending and distribution of corn-based ethanol.

GOP lawmakers in Iowa and other states with ethanol plants in their districts are worried about the repeal effort. Iowa Reps. Ashley Hinson and Randy Feenstra were tight-mouthed upon emerging from a meeting with Mr. McCarthy at the Capitol on Tuesday.

And some Republicans don’t want to raise the debt ceiling at all, saying spending cuts should be adequate to keep the government from defaulting.

“I don’t want to vote for a debt ceiling increase,” said Rep. Bob Good, Virginia Republican. “I don’t think we ought to be spending at a level where we need to increase the debt ceiling.”

All of that complicates Mr. McCarthy’s math. The speaker can lose only four Republicans on any House vote before having to rely on Democrats.

At the moment, Democrats are ruling out backing anything other than a clean-debt ceiling resolution.

“I’m pretty confident that not a single member of the House Democratic Caucus is going to support their extreme proposal,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat.

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