Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy went to Wall Street Monday, where he celebrated the first 100 days of this session and talked about the great things united House Republicans were going to achieve for the nation by making life as difficult as possible for the working poor. That might be the only thing that McCarthy’s fractious caucus can rally behind, however. Those cracks just keep getting wider, and the Freedom Caucus is prepared to blow it all up.
McCarthy followed up on that speech in the weekly closed-door meeting of Republicans Tuesday, presenting to them what he wants to finally take to the table in negotiating a debt limit increase.
Meanwhile, the head of the Freedom Caucus, Texas Rep. Chip Roy, has been talking himself up to The Wall Street Journal, previewing how he is planning to continue to make McCarthy’s life hell. A WSJ reporter shadowed Roy last week, documenting how he is “preparing for battle” over the debt ceiling.
“The fight’s just begun—the speaker’s fight was a preview,” Roy told a group of Kerr County Republicans last week. “I’m not there to get second place. I’m there to win,” He reiterated that to the Kerr County Chamber of Commerce in another speech. “If you think it was hot then, the debt-ceiling fight is going to get a lot hotter.”
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Just to make his point clear, he later told the WSJ: “You’re going to lose right-flank support if you don’t have upfront, first-year cuts.” He laid down his line in the sand. “The debt ceiling is not going to be clean, and it’s not going to be one simple thing attached to it.”
McCarthy’s proposal on the debt ceiling includes lots of cuts, a handful of repeals of President Joe Biden’s initiatives, and making all the working people who receive Medicaid and food stamp assistance prove that they are working. He reportedly doesn’t want to include some of the things the maniacs have been yelling about the loudest, like repealing the new IRS funding.
That’s not going to go over well with the Freedom Caucus crowd, only four of whom McCarthy can afford to lose. He needs 218 votes and he’s not going to be getting them from any Democrats. There are already two Republicans who have told reporters that they won’t help McCarthy raise the debt ceiling, period.
All that’s to remind McCarthy that he only holds the speaker’s gavel because Roy and team let him have it. And he’s increasingly growing short of allies. That’s McCarthy’s own fault since he’s been trash talking about his leadership team to anyone in the House who would listen. Despite his big talk, he’s not been able to pull the conference together on the big legislative agenda he promised for the first 100 days. It’s taken this long for him to even come up with an outline for a proposal on the debt ceiling.
All this is creating “skepticism,” “distrust,” and “growing rancor” in McCarthy’s gang, The Washington Post reports. And they have the receipts. “Everybody is going to be looking at each other much more suspiciously now,” an anonymous GOP told the Post. “It’s going to be much harder to do things.”
Still, members who spoke to the Post tried valiantly to put a happy face on the situation. Like Majority Whip Tom Emmer, whose job it is to try to get 218 votes on anything from a group of people he admits “despise each other.”
“You may not want this person to get anything, and you are so sick and tired of this person taking everything,” Emmer told the Post. “Our job is to make sure that at the end of the day, both of them walk away from the table and go, ‘Yep, I did the job I had to do for the people at home.’” That’s an aspirational idea more than actual practice at this point, since they haven’t really been able to get any job done.
And how are the negotiations going? Roy is trashing his colleagues on the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which has been trying to figure out how to get a debt ceiling bill on the floor that could cobble enough votes from both parties to pass. Roy is having none of that.
“If these sons-of-bitches want to try to end-run us, game on,” Roy said. So he’s nice.
Then there’s the question of whether the majority of these Republicans, McCarthy included, actually want to solve the immediate debt ceiling problem or whether they’re actively trying to crash the economy so they can blame it on Biden in 2024.
Consider this quote from a supposed “moderate” in the conference: “I have said this all along,” said GOP Ohio Rep. David Joyce. “It boils down to trust. Eventually, we’re going to have to hold hands and jump off the cliff together and trust each other that we’re going to get to the bottom.”
Going off the cliff is most definitely not the objective for any serious lawmaker. Getting to the bottom is only the goal of people who want to blow it all up.
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It's never too early to start talking about the House! Joining us on this week's edition of The Downballot is Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, who offers his thoughts on the overall playing field and a wide range of key contests. Jacob explains why Lauren Boebert might have an easier time of it in her likely rematch, how some candidates have a "special sauce" that allows them to keep winning difficult districts, and why he thinks Mary Peltola is favored for re-election despite Alaska's persistent red lean.