Members of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus have promised a “reckoning” if their Republican colleagues support the debt limit deal struck by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Joe Biden.
“If you’re out there watching this, every one of my colleagues, let me very be clear: Not one Republican should vote for this deal. It is a bad deal,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said at a May 30 press conference in front of the Capitol.
For months, Republicans have pushed for a “responsible” increase to the federal borrowing cap—currently set at $31.4 trillion—that is coupled with future spending cuts. Democrats, on the other hand, have demanded a “clean” increase free of any budget cuts.
But while McCarthy and Biden have touted the bill as a compromise, Roy and his fellow Freedom Caucus members held Tuesday that the deal gives Republicans “nothing in return” for the $4 trillion it would ultimately add to the national debt.
A ‘Blank Check’The McCarthy-Biden deal would increase total defense spending by about 3 percent to $886 billion while also capping non-defense discretionary spending, excluding veterans’ benefits, for fiscal year 2024 at $637 billion, representing a $1 billion decrease year-over-year. In 2025, that total would increase by 1 percent.
Other provisions include the repurposing of $10 billion of IRS appropriations in both fiscal years 2024 and 2025; stricter work requirements to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program; permitting reform for energy projects; and a claw-back of roughly $28 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief funds, excluding those related to veterans’ medical care, housing assistance, vaccine development, and the Indian Health Service.
However, the Republicans noted that the concessions Biden agreed to fall far short of those they passed in the Limit, Save, Grow Act—particularly given the fact that the bill does not specify a new debt ceiling.
“Tomorrow’s bill hands Biden a blank check as it doesn’t actually set a debt limit,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). “This is an unlimited debt increase, allowing him to spend as much money as he wants through the end of his term.”
Despite McCarthy’s touting of budget cuts in the bill, Boebert asserted that those cuts were so small that they amounted to “essentially nothing.”
“In short, tomorrow’s bill is a bunch of fake news and fake talking points that will do nothing to rein in out-of-control federal spending,” she said. “If every Republican voted the way that they campaigned, they would vote against tomorrow’s bad deal because this is the very thing that we all campaigned to put an end to.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) accused McCarthy of “lying” about the bill’s provisions regarding IRS funding.
“He said that there is going to be $1.9 billion dollars taken away from IRS funding. That’s false,” Bishop told reporters after the press conference. “The bill provides a reduction of $1.4 billion. And he said we’ve … nixed their staffing request funding for fiscal year 2023. That is false. There is nothing in the bill that constrains them to have that reduction in funding.”
As for the rescinded COVID relief money, Roy noted that $22 billion of those funds would be allocated to the Department of Commerce for “play money,” or as the bill terms it, “programs related to government efficiencies.”
Roy suggested that those funds instead be directed toward the Treasury Department to stave off default.
A ReckoningDespite Roy’s assertion of a “reckoning”—to nods of approval from his fellow Freedom Caucus members—the congressman refused to say whether that reckoning would include challenging McCarthy in his role as speaker.
“I’m not going to get into that right now,” he told reporters after the news conference. “I’m just trying to make very clear about how we’re handling the decisions today.”
Bishop, on the other hand, raised his hand signaling his support for the move, stating, “I think it’s got to be done.”
Although hesitant to commit to filing the motion himself, Bishop added that he had “zero” confidence in McCarthy as speaker, wondering, “What basis is there for confidence?”
But speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), one of McCarthy’s negotiators on the deal, maintained that the final product was “better than what was about to come.”
As for the speakership, McHenry confidently asserted that McCarthy was in no danger of losing his job and that negotiations with other conference members were already underway.
“We have a leadership structure,” he said. “We have a great whip who’s doing a fantastic job. And he’s talking to our members and communicating actively.”