Ever since Kevin McCarthy was narrowly elected speaker in the wee hours of the morning after a historic 15 rounds of voting, there’ve been reports that the new speaker had to more or less sell his soul and offer up his first born to the MAGA hardliners in exchange for the gavel.
Punchbowl was first to note the existence of what it described as a set of concessions that McCarthy made to the holdouts in the Freedom Caucus, who used their small but mighty contingent of detractors to take the House hostage for almost an entire week. But the report was light on specifics.
Speculation over what exactly McCarthy gave up has grown for days. There were some indications last week that the so-called deal reached between McCarthy and Matt Gaetz & Co. was more of a back-door gentlemen’s agreement than an official addendum to the rules. We know that McCarthy agreed to put some Freedom Caucus members on the Rules Committee and to make it easier for his colleagues to oust him as speaker. We also know he agreed to some provisions that essentially will make it easier for Republicans to block new spending or tax increases. We know he promised to bring a term-limits bill to the floor for a vote at some point.
Beyond that, there’s been some reporting on additional promises made by McCarthy but still little tangible evidence of what exactly was agreed to. But then, on Friday, the Washington Post reported that House Republicans plan to trot out a “prioritization” bill as a messaging defense for when the party forces a debt-ceiling fight in coming weeks. Republicans are billing the proposal as a solution to a problem that they will create — trying to force the Biden administration to continue paying for some federal programs but not others while the GOP drags out its debt ceiling fight. This “prioritization” plan was reportedly part of the secret deals McCarthy made to become speaker.
Josh Marshall gets into why this plans is just giving House Republicans the spin they need to pretend like they care about the U.S. defaulting on its debts:
We’ve been through this idea back in 2011. The U.S. government isn’t equipped technologically to pay some bills and not others on the fly. The U.S. government makes millions of payments every day. It also probably wouldn’t avoid the kind of financial crisis that full default would. And finally, this would only happen if the Senate passed such a “prioritization” bill and President Biden signed it. Obviously those things aren’t going to happen.
This gets us to the real gist of the matter. The Post calls this an “emergency plan for breaching the debt limit.” But it’s not. It can’t work. It couldn’t pass into law even if it could work. This isn’t actually a plan to avoid default. It’s a messaging plan aimed at being able to blame the White House for the federal debt default and the ensuing financial crisis after it happens. House Republicans want to be able to say, we offered this prioritization plan and you rejected it so obviously this is on you.
I recap all of this to point you to some news on the bigger picture here. Perhaps alarmed by the weekend’s reports on the debt-ceiling messaging plan, the White House today joined calls for Republicans to cough up the details of just how much of his soul McCarthy has already promised to hand over.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates spoke out this morning:
“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.”
“The few agreements we know about would fundamentally reshape our economy in a devastating way for working families and criminalize women for making their own health care decisions,” Bates continued. “They’re also planning to plunge the economy into chaos and take millions of American jobs and 401k plans hostage unless they can cut Medicare.”
Pressure from a senior White House official will likely not force this list of concessions to materialize out of thin air. But it at least signals to House Republicans that the White House is onto their scheme.
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