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  • Lucas Liang ’26

A House Divided

The U.S. House of Representatives (Image:

As 2023 began, a new Congress heralded in a new government as the Republican Party gained a slim, five-seat majority in the House of Representatives. However, the stark divide within the House Republican Conference was quickly evident when the House began voting for a speaker—a position normally given to the leader of the majority party and without which the House can do nothing except adjourn.

For Kevin McCarthy, the incumbent House Republican Leader, that task proved exceedingly difficult as about 20 members blocked his ascension to the speakership. Eventually, Rep. McCarthy was able to negotiate down the number of Republican detractors to just six, who allowed McCarthy to win the speakership.

The chaotic start for Speaker McCarthy has brought into question his ability to effectively lead the chamber, especially since many of his concessions during negotiations have significantly weakened the office of speaker. Even if Speaker McCarthy is unable to corral his party into passing some pieces of his legislative agenda, the speaker and Congress as a whole will be forced to agree on certain “must-pass” legislation.

One such critical item on the Congressional agenda is a raise to the national debt ceiling, which is the debt limit that the Treasury can incur in order to pay for already authorized federal spending. Usually, the debt ceiling is raised without much controversy. This time, Republicans such as Speaker McCarthy are demanding cuts in spending—potentially in programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—in order to agree on a raise to the debt ceiling. On the contrary, Democrats (such as the president) are calling a raise to the debt ceiling non-negotiable.

If an agreement is not reached and the debt ceiling is not raised by sometime in the summer, the United States will default on its debts and bonds, interest rates will broadly rise, and global recession will ensue. For now, all eyes are on Congress to resolve the crisis.

Lucas Liang ’26 is a Vol. 71 Contributing Editor.

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