Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused the House Freedom Caucus of preventing the Republican majority from governing.
Speaking to Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo Monday morning, McCarthy the ousted former Speaker who resigned from Congress at the end of December, said questions about why Republicans opted to “kick the can down the road” and avert a government shutdown should be directed at the hard-line conservative group.
The stopgap funding measure passed last week extends government funding levels originally set under Democratic control until March 1 and March 8.
“You really should be asking the Freedom Caucus. They are the ones who have stopped the Republicans from being able to govern,” McCarthy said.
The Freedom Caucus opposed the continuing resolution (CR) to extend government funding last week, which Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said was necessary to complete work on regular full-year spending bills.
But McCarthy’s comment was an apparent reference to members of the group and their allies opposing full-year funding deals that House GOP leadership struck with Democrats — such as a debt ceiling deal McCarthy struck last year — and blocking several funding measures from coming to the House floor over the past year, preventing the slim House GOP majority from approving some funding measures sooner.
“What they are doing is they’re locking in the Democratic policies,” McCarthy said. “They’re actually spending more money now than if we go to the debt ceiling numbers. That would mean government would spend less, we could put Republican policies in. But they continue to stymie this majority to be able to do anything.”
The Freedom Caucus opposes the top-line spending number that Johnson struck with Democrats and the White House, which is largely in line with the debt ceiling deal that McCarthy struck with Democrats that they did not think was low enough.
The top-line agreement includes a $1.59 trillion base top line, a number Johnson and McCarthy have highlighted. But it also includes around $69 billion in budget tweaks to plus-up nondefense dollars for most of fiscal 2024, which enraged the Freedom Caucus. Johnson, meanwhile, has touted additional funding clawbacks he secured beyond the original McCarthy agreement.
Freedom Caucus leadership had also made a last-minute pitch to Johnson last week to try to attach border and migration policies to the stopgap measure, which he rejected.
Just more than half of House Republicans voted with Democrats last week to extend part of government funding to March 1 and the rest until March 8. McCarthy, notably, was forced out of the Speakership after pushing through a continuing resolution at the end of September.
“It really comes down to, what’s a true conservative? And I look for Ronald Reagan. A conservative is one that can actually govern in a conservative way,” McCarthy said. “But what you’re finding now is, what they’re doing is doing nothing but locks in Democratic Pelosi policies.”
“I don’t think they should continue to move to CRs. They should actually follow the numbers that was in the debt ceiling, which is lower than what they’re spending today. You get to reform it with Republican policies, because you’re in the majority now in the House. You get to move forward and layout and show the American public why they should give you more seats in the House and actually capture the Senate,” McCarthy said.