Progressive Rep. Khanna cites student loan repayments, natural gas pipeline authorization as reasons to vote 'No' on debt limit deal

June 1, 2023

Prior to the House voting Wednesday to pass the debt limit deal brokered between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Joe Biden's White House, progressive Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) announced his intention to vote "No" on the bill, Breitbart reported.

The California congressman explained in an interview that he couldn't support the measure because it would force student loan borrowers to finally begin repaying their debt after a three-year pause, would strengthen work requirements for some welfare recipients, and would finalize approval for a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia.

Khanna's decision to vote "No" on the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 places him squarely in opposition to President Biden as well as House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who both championed the negotiated debt limit deal and urged all House Democrats to vote in support of it.

Khanna explains reasons for "No" vote

Wednesday evening, prior to the vote on the House floor, Rep. Khanna appeared on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" and revealed that with regard to the debt limit deal bill, "I'm a no."

"The president did the best he could under a hostage situation. And he and his team deserve a lot of credit. It could have been a lot worse," Khanna said. "They have a deal that’s better, frankly, than the deal that was ten years ago."

"But the point is that they’ve increased defense spending -- because of the Republican extremism -- while cutting aid to the most vulnerable, while having student loan recipients not get continued relief, while having the Mountain [Valley] fossil fuel pipeline made permanent," he continued. "That’s just not something that most of us can get behind."

Later, asked what he thought the worst aspect of the bill was and what the Senate should try to change through amendments, Khanna replied, "Well, first, I think we should not be hurting people from getting $6 a day food stamps when we have an affordability crisis."

"We need to be looking out for the 40 million student loan borrowers who will have to start repaying their student loans in September if the bill is not amended," the congressman added. "And then this Mountain Valley pipeline, at a time where the climate crisis is there, we shouldn’t be just giving a green light to constructing the Mountain Valley Pipeline."

What is he actually complaining about?

What Rep. Khanna was complaining about, per an Associated Press breakdown of the bill, is a modest strengthening of work requirements for certain recipients of welfare programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, as well as a limit on the waivers that states can issue to exempt recipients from pre-existing work requirements.

The bill also codifies President Biden's tentative plan to end the pandemic-related three-year pause on student loan repayments but leaves in place Biden's plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt per eligible borrower -- though that plan is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court.

Also included in the measure are reforms intended to simplify and streamline the permitting processes for domestic energy production projects as well as a special provision that specifically approved all relevant permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project that is supported by both senators from West Virginia, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelly Moore Capito.

Bill passed by a vote of 314-117

According to CBS News, the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act, which will suspend the debt ceiling and limit spending until 2025, among other things, passed overwhelmingly with a bipartisan vote of 314-117, with a total of 165 Democrats and 149 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

Of the 117 members who voted against the deal, 71 were Republicans and 46 were Democrats, and per the House Clerk's roll call of the vote, Rep. Khanna was listed among those who voted "Nay/No."

The bill will now be forwarded to the Senate where Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has warned his colleagues to "prepare for potential Friday and weekend votes" in hopes of getting the measure passed and signed into law by President Biden ahead of the arbitrary June 5 date by which Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen has said the nation could default on its debts and obligations.


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