The Biden White House has fired its opening salvo against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as they prepare to face off on the debt limit: The deals the speaker made with conservatives will cause a crisis.
White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates hit out at Mr McCarthy in a statement to Politico.
“An unprecedented tax hike on the middle class and a national abortion ban are just a glimpse of the secret, backroom deals Speaker McCarthy made with extreme MAGA members to end this month’s chaotic elections and claim the gavel,” he said. “It is well past time for Speaker McCarthy and the ultra MAGA Republican House members to come out of the dark and tell the American people, in-full, what they decided in secret.”
Of course, the White House is referring to the deals that Mr McCarthy made with a series of conservatives who opposed his speakership to finally win the gavel. Most of the conservatives who opposed his bid ultimately relented.
As of right now, many of the deals that Mr McCarthy cut are still largely vague or were made verbally. But Sahil Kapur at NBC News reported that some Republicans like Representative Ralph Norman, a holdout who switched to Mr McCarthy, want spending cuts equal to an increase in the debt limit. Meanwhile, Representative Chip Roy, another former holdout, wants to cut spending to fiscal year 2022 levels and balance the budget in 10 years.
Outside of Congress, former Trump adviser Stephen Miller wants to use the debt limit as leverage for cutting the IRS or curtailing abortion. But that might be a non-starter, given that Democrats gained a seat in their Senate majority largely on the strength of anger about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade in its Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.
All of this comes as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the US will hit the debt limit on Thursday. White House Press Secretare Karine Jeane-Pierre also threw cold water on a Republican proposal first reported in The Washington Post that would have the Treasury Department prioritize certain payments if the US were to hit the debt limit.
“This is not a plan. It is a recipe for economic catastrophe. As President Biden has made clear, Congress must deal with the debt limit and must do so without conditions,” she said. Of course, this proposal has little chance of passing given that Democrats control the Senate and would certainly block any such measure outright (and many Republicans would also wince at such an idea).
But the Biden White House wants to say that Republicans are playing games with the United States’s full faith and credit. Furthermore, they want to make Mr McCarthy, who hardly inflames passions either way, be seen as a stooge of the far right.
But Mr McCarthy isn’t doing much to change that image. On Tuesday, CNN’s Melanie Zanona reported that the House GOP Steering Committee voted to reinstate Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar onto their committees.
Ms Greene was Mr McCarthy’s most steadfast conservative supporter throughout his bid for speaker, so it makes sense he would reinstate her after Democrats gave her the boot. But the White House will likely use it as a way to show he is in thrall to the most extremist members of the GOP conference.