Right-wing Republican lawmakers Tuesday sought to derail the deal between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the debt ceiling.
Although the agreement still seemed on track to passage, members of the conservative Freedom Caucus said they would vote against the measure in the powerful GOP-led rules committee in a gambit to prevent it from ever reaching the House floor.
Republicans have a 9-4 majority on the 13-member committee but hardliners Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) have already vowed to try to scuttle the bill.
That would leave another far right-winger, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), as a possible deciding vote since only members of the majority party typically vote in favor of bringing bills to the floor.
“Republicans [must not] default on the American dream by voting for this bad bill,” Roy said.
Flanked by other leaders of the Freedom Caucus, Roy also vowed McCarthy would face a “reckoning” over his support for the deal, which would avert a catastrophic default on U.S. debt.
He asserted that McCarthy agreed to only move bills through the rules committee with unanimous support of GOP members and said the new move amounted to a “breach” of the deal that won him the speaker’s gavel.
Right-wing rebels could seek to oust McCarthy, a move that might result in a replay of the marathon squabble that roiled the GOP in January before he eventually won the leadership role on a record 15th ballot.
The debt ceiling package is a tradeoff that would impose some spending reductions for the next two years along with a suspension of the debt limit into January 2025, pushing the volatile political issue past the next presidential election.
Raising the debt limit allows the Treasury to continue borrowing to pay the bills that Congress already incurred by passing spending bills under the leadership of both parties.
Progressives also oppose the deal, noting that Democrats got nothing from the talks except for pushing back the crisis over the debt for a couple of years.
Most pundits say moderates in both parties will unite to pass the bill if it gets to the full House as soon as Wednesday. It then must overcome a possible filibuster and other stalling tactics in the Senate before heading to Biden’s desk for signature.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned the bill must be enacted before June 5 or Uncle Sam’s piggy bank will go empty. But most observers believe government bean-counters can shuffle the bills around for a couple of extra days if a deal is all but done.