The House Freedom Caucus on Thursday threw a wrench in Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plans to finalize a debt limit deal with President Biden, demanding new provisions in exchange for their votes.
Thirty-five members of the hardline group sent a letter to Mr. McCarthy outlining a new conservative wish list. The lawmakers wrote that GOP unity behind Mr. McCarthy would be endangered if the demands were unmet.
“The power of an undivided Republican Party guided by conservative principles cannot be overstated,” the lawmaker wrote. “As you navigate the debt limit debate, you are the steward of this unity and will determine whether it continues to strengthen and places a historic stamp on this Congress or evaporates.”
Freedom Caucus lawmakers want the final deal to look like the debt limit legislation passed by House Republicans, plus to expand it to exclude funding for a new FBI headquarters and include great border security measures.
The GOP’s debt limit bill cut federal spending by $130 billion for the upcoming fiscal year and limits budget growth to 1% annually over the next decade. It also rescinds unspent pandemic relief, cancels Mr. Biden’s student loan forgiveness program and scraps $200 billion in green energy tax credits.
Beyond cutting spending, the legislation overhauls the nation’s energy-permitting laws, imposes work requirements on social welfare programs and requires congressional approval for any new regulations with an economic impact of more than $100 million per year.
Some of those provisions have been sidelined in the debt limit negotiations over White House opposition. Mr. McCarthy has said that legislation passed by House Republicans was an initial offer meant to start negotiations with the White House.
“I don’t think everybody is going to be happy at the end of the day,” said Mr. McCarthy, California Republican.
Freedom Caucus lawmakers say the GOP has leverage and should use it to extract as many concessions as possible.
The lawmakers also want Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to release data showing how the federal government has determined it can’t pay all its bills if the debt ceiling is not raised by June 1.
“The credibility of her projection suffers not only from its manipulative timing, but also Yellen’s spectacular prior failures to recognize our severe and lasting inflation,” the lawmakers wrote.
Apart from having the treasury secretary justify her default timeline, Freedom Caucus lawmakers want the House to pass legislation extending the debt limit by one month to give Mr. McCarthy more time to pressure the White House into accepting all of the GOP’s debt limit demands. They also want the short-term extension to include provisions repealing $80 billion in new IRS funding and the recision of unspent COVID-19 relief.
“The only hope for transformative change in Washington comes from a unified House Republican Conference,” the lawmakers wrote. “You have that. We are behind you. Use our unity to make history.”
The Freedom Caucus nearly tanked Mr. McCarthy’s speakership bid this year. In exchange for allowing Mr. McCarthy’s ascension, conservatives pushed through a rules package that decentralized the power of congressional leadership.
The crux of the overhaul rests on a provision letting any lawmaker force a vote on retaining the speaker. Given the narrow Republican majority, Mr. McCarthy can lose only four GOP lawmakers on any single House vote before having to rely on Democrats.
A senior member of the House Freedom Caucus told The Washington Times that is the threat underlining the group’s position on the debt limit.
• Haris Alic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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