Speaker Kevin McCarthy made a plea to House Republicans during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning to back his debt ceiling plan, telling them that although it doesn’t have to include everything they want, it will help get him to the negotiating table with President Joe Biden.
McCarthy also told members that once he is at the table, he can push for other policy provisions down the road, according to multiple sources in the room, underscoring the idea that leadership sees the GOP-only plan as purely a way to strengthen their hand at the negotiating table.
Top House Republicans are projecting confidence that they will be able to unite the conference behind a plan and move quickly to pass it. But that is far from certain. Key details of the plan are still yet to be finalized and some members are expressing frustration over the proposal as it stands – and elements that have not been included.
House Rules Chairman Tom Cole told CNN the GOP debt limit bill will be on the House floor next week, but other House Republicans have signaled skepticism over whether specifics of the proposal can be ironed out in time for a vote to happen that soon and the timeframe may slip.
House Republicans are insisting that any increase in the debt limit must be paired with spending cuts, while the White House argues that the limit should be raised without any conditions. McCarthy wants to move a debt limit bill through the House as a way to put pressure on the White House to come to the table for negotiation, even if the bill won’t pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The closed-door meeting kicks off a difficult push by GOP leaders to wrangle 218 votes for a proposal to raise the debt ceiling and reduce federal spending. McCarthy walked members through his proposal, which includes clawing back unspent Covid-19 funds, 10-year caps on spending, prohibiting Biden’s student loan forgiveness and enacting a GOP energy bill.
Conservatives are pushing for more to be included while some have said they won’t back a debt ceiling hike under any circumstances, illustrating how challenging it is going to be for GOP leaders to unite the conference behind a proposal.
GOP Rep. Scott Perry, the chairman of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, expressed frustration over the lack of specificity from House GOP leaders on their debt ceiling and spending cut plan.
“I don’t know what’s in the package completely, that’s the issue,” Perry told reporters. “I know what was on the screen, but I don’t think that’s the entire package.”
Perry also said he disagreed with GOP leadership’s approach of trying to pass something now in order to get to the negotiating table with Democrats and then demanding more later. Perry was one of several members who stood up during the closed-door conference meeting and advocated for additional cuts.
Rep. Kevin Hern, the leader of the Republican Study Committee, told CNN that Republicans have to come together on one debt ceiling plan or face a much weaker hand in any future negotiations with the White House.
“It’s about leadership. If we can’t lead then we have a problem,” Hern said.
Hern said he had no problem with voting as soon as next week, arguing it’s time for Republicans to coalesce.
GOP Rep. Don Bacon said one of the things they are still debating is how – and how long – to raise the debt ceiling, and whether they should raise it by a dollar amount or to a date. Some members are pushing for a shorter increase, but Bacon said it will likely go into next year.
He also confirmed some members are still pushing to include more spending cuts and repeals, and some lawmakers advocated for that during the meeting, but Bacon predicted the 18 Republicans in Biden districts, like himself, will be for it.
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said that conference talks on the debt ceiling were “getting closer,” but that there are still details that need to be addressed. He said he’s not sure a vote on the budget deal can come as early as next week.
“I think a lot of that depends on how these discussions go today, tomorrow, the following day,” he said. “I think there are a number of really critical details that we’ve still got to work out before making a final decision on a vote, but it’s been a very productive discussion, a lot of good ideas” though he said he would be “very surprised” if bill text was released today.
A source inside the room tells CNN that inside the House GOP conference, members of the House Freedom Caucus including Reps. Perry, Chip Roy and Andrew Clyde called for more cuts to be included and pushed leadership on why some provisions weren’t included.
It goes to show how hard this is going to be for leaders even though leadership has pitched this as an opportunity to strengthen leverage with the White House.
One of the topics discussed during the GOP conference meeting was why a few items were not included in the debt ceiling framework.
For example, conservatives have been frustrated a measure that would claw back Internal Revenue Service enforcement funds wasn’t included. But a source in the room tells CNN that the reason it isn’t included is because it would be scored by the Congressional Budget Office as expensive and without enforcement money, the CBO would argue less tax revenue would be collected.
Republicans are trying to raise as much revenue as they can and cut spending in this bill.