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Rebel Republicans seek spending, power concessions from McCarthy

Rebel Republicans seek spending, power concessions from McCarthy
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, center, speaks to members of the media while arriving at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, May 25, 2023. (Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg)

Hard-line conservatives angered by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt-ceiling deal are insisting on power-sharing and budget-cutting concessions in exchange for allowing legislation to move on the House floor. 

In agreeing on Monday to temporarily lift a nearly week-long blockade of the House floor, some of the legislators threatened to stall business again if McCarthy didn’t meet their demands. 

“I think everybody’s attitude in the room was how do we move forward,” the speaker said after his meeting with the ultra-conservatives. He told reporters any deal with conservatives wouldn’t involve new committee assignments.

The dissidents, who have tremendous power in the narrow Republican House majority, began their protest over the compromise McCarthy forged with President Joe Biden to avert a US debt default. 

Their demands include funding the government next year at $120-billion below the caps in that deal, a move that Democrats say would devastate domestic programs.

“I think you will see an agreement in the next few days,” Representative Bob Good, a Virginia Republican and one of the 11 dissidents who initiated the blockade, said of the ongoing talks with McCarthy. Representative Matt Rosendale of Montana, another protester, said the House “will be functioning this week”.

Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida suggested that even if the hard-liners permit the House to resume business, tensions remain.

“Trust is a serious problem,” Gaetz said.

Many of the dissidents opposed McCarthy’s speakership early this year, forcing 15 rounds of votes and extracting promises from the California Republican in exchange for their support. The promises included seats on the powerful Rules Committee and a rule that allows only one lawmaker to make a motion to oust the speaker. 

Beyond the budget cuts, neither McCarthy nor the dissidents have publicized their demands. Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee said they want to be in the room when deals are being struck. 

The blockade, which began last week and stalled GOP-endorsed legislation rolling back rules on gas stoves, marked the first time in more than two decades that a speaker had been unable to muster the votes for a procedural step to begin debate on a bill on the House floor. McCarthy eventually gave up on votes and sent lawmakers home for the week.

The narrow 222-212 House GOP majority McCarthy oversees enables as few as five Republican legislators to sabotage a measure on a party-line vote. 

“We are going to take this one day at a time,” said Representative Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, who often serves as a bridge between House leaders and conservatives. 

After the meeting, McCarthy said he would now have the votes to pass the gas stove bill and a bill loosening regulations on pistol braces, a key conservative priority. DM


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