McCarthy tries to wrangle Republicans on unfinished debt limit bill



House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday laid out his opening salvo for a go-it-alone debt limit increase bill he hopes will bring President Biden to the negotiating table — but first, he has to wrangle members of his own conference.

With just a four-member majority and a still-unfinished bill, Republican leaders’ push for a floor vote as soon as next week could prove to a heavy lift.

A number of House Republicans leaving a conference meeting on Tuesday where McCarthy presented the debt limit plan said they were not ready to support the debt increase plan, with several hardline conservatives pushing for more cuts.

“I don’t know what’s in the package completely. That’s the issue,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), chair of the hardline House Freedom Caucus.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) similarly said that “there are a number of really critical details we’ve still got to work out before making a final decision on a vote.”

“We ain’t there yet,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) said. “It’s got to be robust.”

The debt limit framework includes reverting discretionary non-defense spending to fiscal year 2022 levels and implementing work requirements safety net programs, and would be considered the House GOP’s first firm offer in a debt ceiling negotiation after Biden has refused to meet with McCarthy on the matter until the House passes a budget.

But a number of details in the debt bill are still being ironed out, and members leaving the meeting said that several people pushed for it to go further in terms of cuts and spending clawbacks.

House GOP leaders are aiming to move on the bill next week, according to House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.). It is possible that the bill is fast-tracked to the floor rather than going through a regular order committee process.

With just four votes to spare in a slim majority, McCarthy and other leaders are maneuvering carefully.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who has previously said that he will not vote to raise the debt limit at all, said he cannot envision voting for the measure yet – but is open to changing his mind.

“Kevin McCarthy’s kept his word on the things he said he was going to do,” Burchett said. “I’ve been lied to for five years on this thing, and I’ve given our own party opportunity to lie to me, and I hope they don’t.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told conservative radio host Glenn Beck that McCarthy did a “good job laying out the baseline” for a debt increase bill, including reverting back to fiscal year 2022 discretionary spending levels. But he wants more specifics, including repealing green energy subsidies and repealing a boost to IRS funding, both measures approved in the last Congress.

“Republicans better damn well fight for those things, force it as far as we can get it,” Roy said.

It is not only hardliners who are wanting more details before signing on to support the bill.

“I don’t know that we’re in a strong enough position yet,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said. “I want to see what the details are and make sure that we’re negotiating from the strongest position possible.”

Despite the skepticism, GOP leaders are optimistic about passing the bill, and noted that members did not object to the proposals in the plan outlined by McCarthy — but just had more suggestions.

“No one has committed to everything. The speaker has laid out a path. Everybody’s having a discussion about it. I’m confident we’re gonna get something done,” said House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).

McCarthy told reporters that he is not worried that a lack of bill text is stopping people from supporting the debt limit increase plan.

“I want to be honest. Speaker McCarthy has a tough job. I’m not trying to give him an excuse – it is hard,” Roy said.

Mychael Schnell contributed.



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