Oklahoma House members coalesce around McCarthy’s debt plan after last-minute concessions


United States Capitol on April 26, 2023 (Gaylord News photo/Noah Mack)

Noah Mack

WASHINGTON – The Republican-led House narrowly voted Wednesday to raise the debt limit with full support from the Oklahoma delegation—although Rep. Josh Brecheen remained undecided until the final vote.

Rep. Tom Cole (OK-Moore), the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee,  worked well into the night hashing out last-minute concessions to Republican holdouts on Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) debt limit proposal, which President Joe Biden has already threatened to veto.

One of those concessions was stricter work requirements for Medicaid and food stamp recipients, something Brecheen (R-Coalgate) supported—but the freshman congressman was still not fully onboard.

“I’m going to lean yes,” Brecheen said Wednesday. “I learned a long time ago you always wait until the very vote to make sure you have a full understanding of everything because things could change just before.”

The push to get McCarthy’s bill adopted, 217-215, echoed the struggle it took to get McCarthy elected speaker. Two Republicans joined the 213 Democrats in voting no on the package. In January, it took a historic 15 attempts for McCarthy to win the speaker’s gavel, and one of his staunchest adversaries was Brecheen.

The rest of Oklahoma’s House delegation gave the debt plan its full-throated support.

“I am especially pleased to see key energy provisions included in this package,” Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) said on the House floor. “The best way to lower prices is to cut spending and unleash American energy, allowing states like Oklahoma to power our nation.”

A bulk of McCarthy’s proposal borrowed from a doctrine Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Tulsa) wrote in March dubbed the Republican Study Committee Debt Limit Playbook.

“It would be kind of disingenuous for me not to be supportive of it,”said Hern, chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

Cole said on the House floor during debate that he hopes this passage will prompt debate between Republicans and Democrats before the government defaults on its debt expected as soon as this summer.

“We just want to talk; here’s our opening proposal,” Cole said to his Democratic colleagues. “ We don’t expect you’ll take everything or agree with everything. We know you control the United States Senate; we know the president of the United States has a veto—but you are going to talk with us.”

The bill is expected to flop in the Democratic-controlled Senate after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expressed his disdain for McCarthy’s plan, but Cole hopes this passage will light a fire under Republican Senators.

“If we get this done today we actually put pressure on Republican Senators to be tougher,” Cole said.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma City) said on Fox News Tuesday he doesn’t expect Schumer to consider the bill, but regardless, hopes it prompts debate between McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

“We need to be able to get everybody to the table; we’ve got to be able to get this done,” Lankford said.

Biden said Wednesday he is willing to meet with McCarthy about the budget—but made clear that raising the debt limit was “not negotiable.”


Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.  For more stories by Gaylord News go to GaylordNews.net.