WASHINGTON (CN) — Critical of the deal on the debt ceiling that's been struck with the White House, Republican lawmakers say they can wield the same leverage they used to install Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House to strip him of his party leadership.
McCarthy and the Biden administration put forward their compromise bill late Saturday, positioning the country to sidestep a first-ever national default and subsequent economic crisis while bending to some Republican demands that such action be paired with spending cuts and other provisions. The measure cleared the House Committee on Rules Tuesday and will be considered by the full chamber Wednesday.
Although Speaker McCarthy has expressed confidence that the debt deal can pass in Congress, a cacophony of criticism has grown within the GOP voting bloc in recent days — a trend that began with some of its more radical members but has pushed closer to the center.
Republicans opposed to the compromise bill, such as those in the House’s hard-right Freedom Caucus, have accused their party leader of squandering their limited majority in the lower chamber by refusing to squeeze more concessions out of the White House.
“The speaker himself has said on numerous occasions that the greatest threat to America is our debt,” said Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry, who chairs the Freedom Caucus, during a press conference on the Capitol steps Tuesday afternoon. “Now is the time to act. We had the time to act, and this deal fails completely.”
Members of the Freedom Caucus urged McCarthy last week not to back down on a number of Republican bargaining chips, such as cuts in government spending that would be used to hire more IRS agents, and threatened to pull their support for any compromise bill that didn’t include those provisions.
Now, with their demands unmet, the hyper-conservative voting bloc is urging House Republicans to block the measure.
“The Republican conference, right now, has been torn asunder,” Texas Representative Chip Roy told reporters Tuesday. “We are working hard to try to put it by making sure that this bill gets stopped. Not one Republican should vote for this deal.”
Although some members of the Freedom Caucus, such as Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert, chose to pin blame on President Biden rather than foist it on McCarthy, at least one lawmaker suggested that pushing the debt compromise through Congress could be worthy of the nuclear option — a motion to vacate the speakership.
“I think it’s got to be done,” North Carolina Congressman Dan Bishop told reporters Tuesday, referring to the procedural measure. The lawmaker refused to say whether he would file such a motion but said during the press conference that Speaker McCarthy should be held accountable.
“The leadership decision to forfeit [the GOP position] is going to have to be dealt with,” Bishop said.
A spokesperson for Bishop’s office confirmed that such a drastic move was indeed on the table but declined to comment further.
A motion to vacate — which would trigger a vote to remove McCarthy from leadership — would be an ironic turn of events for the California Republican. While campaigning for the position in January, McCarthy cut a deal with Freedom Caucus members and changed House rules so that just one member can initiate such action.
A House speaker has never been removed from office using a motion to vacate.
While caucus leader Perry declined to speak in specific terms Tuesday about whether Republican lawmakers would support an attempt to oust Speaker McCarthy, he did not rule it out.
“I’ll let each member speak for themselves, but I am focused on defeating this bill,” the Pennsylvania congressman said. “What happens post-that, and the agreements that we have, we will decide once we determine the disposition of this bill and its finality.”
Meanwhile, even some of the Republican party’s more center-right lawmakers balked at the debt compromise Tuesday and announced that they would vote against its passage.
“I’m voting NO on the debt ceiling debacle because playing the D.C. game isn’t worth selling our our kids and grandkids,” South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace tweeted.
Florida Congressman Mike Waltz and Texas Representative Wesley Hunt both also came out against the bill Tuesday morning.
The McCarthy-Biden debt limit deal not only increases the government’s self-imposed spending limit but also implements a number of budget constraints, including pulling back unused funding for federal Covid-19 programs. The measure also incorporates a major Republican demand — increasing work requirements for some older Americans receiving federal aid.
If the compromise bill passes in both houses of Congress, Washington will have narrowly averted a default on its loans. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that, absent congressional action to raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. could run out of money to pay down its debts as soon as June 5.Follow @@BenjaminSWeiss
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