McCarthy scrambles to restart House business as GOP tensions fester

Steve Scalise, Kevin McCarthy
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., left, and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walk together to a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans after quelling a rebellion from hardline conservatives who brought the chamber to a standstill last week, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Last week, a dozen Republicans, mainly members of the House Freedom Caucus, shuttered House business in protest of McCarthy’s leadership. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

McCarthy scrambles to restart House business as GOP tensions fester

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Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is pushing to hold votes and move legislation onto the floor on Tuesday, marking the first signs of movement from the House in a week after a faction of hard-line conservatives stalled business in protest of the debt ceiling agreement.

The House is poised to vote on advancing a rules package on multiple pieces of legislation after McCarthy came to an agreement with a group of 11 Republicans who revolted against the speaker’s debt limit deal with President Joe Biden last week. The details of the agreement are not entirely clear, but they could involve changes to the power-sharing agreement that secured McCarthy’s speakership earlier this year, according to some Republicans.

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“Here’s what everyone understood: The power-sharing agreement that we entered into in January with Speaker McCarthy must be renegotiated, and he understood that we understood that,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told reporters on Monday. “If there’s not a renegotiated power-sharing agreement, then perhaps we’ll be back here next week. That’s not our goal.”

It’s not clear what terms of the agreement are under reconsideration, but McCarthy signaled talks would be underway.

“The only thing we agreed to is that we’ll sit down and talk more of the process,” he said.

However, not all corners of the GOP conference seem to be on board.

In a heated closed-door meeting on Tuesday morning, several Republican members criticized members of the House Freedom Caucus for staging a revolt. One member in particular, Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), even expressed some expletive-laced criticism that although his daughter is fighting cancer, he “shows up to work every f***ing day,” according to CNN.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) also came out against the Freedom Caucus members during the meeting, lamenting the staged revolt had halted action on multiple pieces of legislation. The New York freshman shut down questions of a renegotiated power-sharing agreement, arguing the small group was working against the majority of the GOP conference.

“What power-sharing agreement? The speaker is elected by the conference,” Lawler said after the meeting. “Matt Gaetz, Chip Roy — they’re not in charge. They weren’t elected to lead the conference.”

“You have a conference of 222 people. And they would all be well-advised to remember that they are one vote,” he continued. “The power of the conference resides in the fact that we have a majority. The majority was delivered by people in swing districts.”

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), one of the 11 holdouts who helped halt House action last week, said the group would push for a number of other priorities as part of a deal with McCarthy. One of those includes an agreement to keep spending levels in appropriations bills closer to 2022 levels — a reversal from provisions included in the debt ceiling deal brokered between McCarthy and Biden.

That could set the stage for a government shutdown fight later this year, as Senate Democrats are sure to propose higher spending levels in the budget.

“The House Republican Conference is in shambles,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-CA) said on Tuesday. “ I think it’s shocking that it took less than two weeks for Republicans to walk away from an agreement that they made. This is an agreement that the speaker made directly, and he took pains to get everybody else out of the room and to get to the deal with just him and the president. And then he’s walking away from that deal.”

“House Republicans are going to completely make themselves irrelevant by making their members vote on these deep, deep cuts, and it has no possibility of becoming law,” he said. “So again, incredibly difficult to see that they want to put their members through this — but these are the deals that Kevin McCarthy has to make in order to hold the gavel.”

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Republican leaders have brushed off criticism that intraparty tensions are interfering with House business, arguing the disagreements are an expected result of a slim majority.

“There will be days where we fight it out for the best possible outcome,” House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) said. “That’s the beauty of having a diverse conference made up of 222 members with different ideas and different perspectives.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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