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McCarthy Readies Package Including Spending Freeze in Opening Salvo of Debt Limit War

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is preparing a package that includes a spending freeze and some regulatory rollbacks that he wants to be passed if Republicans are going to support a debt limit increase.

In fact, McCarthy has no idea if the spending freeze idea will fly — even with Republicans. But time is growing short, and McCarthy wants to force Joe Biden to reveal his hand in the coming war to raise the debt ceiling.

It should be noted that even if McCarthy can herd his Republican cats and get them heading toward the same litterbox on the debt limit, the measure would die in the Senate. Joe Biden has made it abundantly clear that he will not accept anything except a “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling.

Neither side is bluffing, which should make for some very interesting days as we count down toward the expiration of the government’s borrowing authority.

What makes this maneuvering truly silly is that the money has already been appropriated. Congress has approved the expenditures. But both sides have to play games and pretend. Republicans are going to pretend that they actually care about the national debt while Democrats are going to pretend that the debt limit is only important when Democrats are in office.

“I want a responsible, sensible debt ceiling that puts us on an economic path to make America stronger. It works for every American. But that cannot happen if the president continues to ignore the problem.”

“A no-strings-attached debt limit increase will not pass,” said McCarthy.

New York Times:

The speech came as Republicans, plagued by internal divisions, toil to agree on a fiscal blueprint to accomplish their demand that any such increase be paired with substantial spending cuts. The outline Mr. McCarthy laid out was significantly narrower than the party’s stated objectives earlier this year that included balancing the budget in 10 years, an aspiration that he did not mention in the remarks.

It was unclear whether the ideas Mr. McCarthy spoke about on Monday could draw enough backing to pass with his party’s slim House majority. Asked in an interview on CNBC minutes after his speech if he had the support of his conference for the plan, Mr. McCarthy stopped short of saying so.

“I think I have the support of America,” he said. “I’ll get the party behind it.”

The invisible Americans, maybe. But Republicans are not convinced.

Axios:

“I think that they should go further. … I am in favor of very aggressive cuts,” said right-wing Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.).

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a former chair of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, said McCarthy’s proposal to keep nondiscretionary, nondefense at 2022 levels is a “long ways away” from his demand to bring it down to pre-pandemic levels.

“I’m not at the table. And I get it, McCarthy’s pissed that I ran against him, so I don’t get invited to any of these deals,” said Biggs, “But I think it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t want to hear from everybody.”

Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), a Biden-district moderate who has raised concerns about proposed welfare work requirements, told Axios, “I think we’re making progress, but we’re still taking a look at it.”

McCarthy has got to unify his caucus. Without unity, Biden and the Democrats will force him into an untenable position — an up or down vote on a clean debt limit bill that could conceivably cost McCarthy his speakership.

So he’s going to have to get the Republican majority on board in order to get at least some cuts to the budget. He won’t get a freeze, nor will he get work requirements built into social programs. But until the Republicans can win a much larger majority in the House and take back the Senate and the White House, McCarthy’s hopes for forcing Biden to enact serious cuts end up being a fool’s hope.

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