McCarthy’s Debt Deal Fails to Win Over His Republican Critics

A number of House GOP defectors remain as debt ceiling negotiations continue to put pressure on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, many of whom did not support him when he was ultimately voted into his current position in January.

McCarthy and President Joe Biden reached a tentative agreement on Saturday evening as part of a 99-page proposal to raise the $31.5 trillion debt limit for two years while also cutting federal spending. The speaker on Tuesday touted the bill as the “largest spending cut” ever to be voted on by Congress, with a roll call expected Wednesday.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen previously warned congressional members of a looming default that could take hold on June 5, writing in a May 15 letter “that waiting until the last minute to suspend or increase the debt limit can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise short-term borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States.”

House Republicans including Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Eli Crane, Matt Gaetz, Bob Good and Matt Rosendale—all of whom voted “present” during the 15th and final vote that secured McCarthy’s speakership in January—continue to speak out against the tentative deal due to a lack of spending increases.

Matt Gaetz Debt Ceiling
Rep. Matt Gaetz is followed by members of the media (not shown) as he walks around the U.S. Capitol on April 26, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Speaker McCarthy said the House would vote on a bill to raise the $31.4 trillion federal debt ceiling.

Biggs told Steve Bannon on his War Room podcast that he suspects that House GOP leadership, the White House and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “coordinated together to falsely advertise the McCarthy-Biden plan to the American people.”

Boebert, who was on the air with Biggs when he expressed his suspicions, later told Newsmax‘s Eric Bolling that the current deal reached is a victory for Democrats.

“This is a gift to the Democrats, this is a gift to the Biden administration,” Boebert said. “It’s going to put our presidential nominee in a very bad place come election season, and it’s just a huge fail on our part.”

Gaetz mocked supporters of the Biden-McCarthy agreement—Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan and Thomas Massie—telling them to “blink twice if under duress.”

Rosendale voted in favor of the House GOP-passed Limit, Save, Grow Act, which included such provisions as the full elimination of 87,000 new IRS agents and the Biden administration’s proposed student loan forgiveness plan.

He, along with 34 other House Republicans, wrote a letter to McCarthy on May 25 urging him to hold the negotiating line. In light of the tentative agreement made between leadership on both sides of the aisle, Rosendale said he is voting “no.”

“The D.C. Swamp has proposed the largest debt ceiling increase in our nation’s history, adding $4 trillion to the existing $31 trillion national debt,” said the Montana representative in a statement. “The Fiscal Irresponsibility Act fails to cut spending and continues to fund the Democrats’ and Biden Administration’s radical agenda. It is frankly an insult to the American people to support a piece of legislation that continues to put our country’s financial future at risk.”

Good has focused on the student loan forgiveness plan, passing legislation in the House on May 24 that would overturn its implementation. A White House source previously told Newsweek that the plan was aimed to remain as part of the final agreement.

“President Biden’s student loan transfer scheme shifts hundreds of billions of dollars of payments from student loan borrowers onto the backs of the American people,” Good said last week.

“The national debt is the greatest national security threat we face,” tweeted Crane, a congressman from Arizona.

Newsweek reached out to the aforementioned GOP members via phone and email for comment.

Charley Ballard, an economics professor at Michigan State University, questioned the implications of a deal not being reached by this weekend and how both sides deal with it—including Biden potentially invoking the 14th Amendment, which he has shied away from but has been encouraged by some Democrats to utilize.

He has called McCarthy’s position “tenuous” and a potential default “catastrophic.”

“I think the markets breathed a sigh of relief a couple of days ago when McCarthy and Biden reached a deal,” Ballard told Newsweek. “But now we’re seeing that the reason that we got so close to the cliff in the first place, you’ve got Chip Roy and about a couple of dozen other—not sure what they call themselves—ultra-conservative Republicans who are sufficiently disenchanted with the status quo and appear to be willing to blow it up.

“It’s hard to know exactly what’s in their mind, whether they maybe don’t believe it’s that catastrophic. I don’t know.”

The June 5 deadline announced by Yellen also may provide these specific Republicans with a sense of leverage, Ballard added, with them viewing it “as their one chance” to make dramatic—and perhaps, historic—spending cuts.

Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told Newsweek that Congress “needs to act expeditiously” to meet the Treasury’s obligations.

“I think the leadership has a sense of urgency, which is most important,” Akabas said. “They’re advanced in the legislative processes and there’s always going to be members that have questions or doubts about timelines and the way that the process is moving. But ultimately, I think the vast majority of members understand the gravity of the situation and the urgency.”

The fact that both sides have gripes, with work requirements for example but for different reasons, is a sign the process is moving forward as intended, he added.

“It makes [work] requirements a little more stringent in some areas and loosens them in other areas,” he said. “When you see the members and most conservative members criticizing the landing spot, that likely means you threaten because the way to get majorities in the House and the Senate is to get the bulk of members on both sides.

“I think the fact that you’re getting concerns raised by both the left and the right signifies that the landing spot is roughly the right one.”

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