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GOP Shutters House in Protest          06/08 06:09

   In fallout from the debt ceiling deal, Speaker Kevin McCarthy is suddenly 
confronting a new threat to his power as angry hard-right conservatives bring 
the House chamber to a halt, reviving their displeasure over the compromise 
struck with President Joe Biden and demanding deeper spending cuts ahead.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- In fallout from the debt ceiling deal, Speaker Kevin 
McCarthy is suddenly confronting a new threat to his power as angry hard-right 
conservatives bring the House chamber to a halt, reviving their displeasure 
over the compromise struck with President Joe Biden and demanding deeper 
spending cuts ahead.

   Barely a dozen Republicans, mainly members of the House Freedom Caucus, 
shuttered House business for a second day Wednesday in protest of McCarthy's 
leadership. Routine votes could not be taken, and a pair of pro-gas stove bills 
important to GOP activists stalled out. Some lawmakers asked if they could 
simply go home -- and eventually they could. By evening, the rest of week's 
schedule was called off.

   McCarthy brushed off the disruption as healthy political debate, part of his 
"risk taker" way of being a leader -- not too different, he said, from the 
15-vote spectacle it took in January for him to finally convince his colleagues 
to elect him as speaker. With a paper-thin GOP majority, any few Republicans 
have outsized sway.

   But the aftermath of the debt ceiling deal is coming into focus: The 
hard-right flank that helped put the speaker in power five months ago is not 
done with McCarthy yet.

   "I enjoy this conflict," the speaker bantered Wednesday at the Capitol, 
saying he feels like Goldilocks being pushed from all sides. "Conflict makes 
you stronger if you deal with it."

   At its core, the standoff between the House conservatives and the speaker 
revolves around the budget levels McCarthy agreed to in the debt-ceiling bill 
with Biden that the right flank of his conference strenuously opposed. The 
agreement restricted spending, but not as much as the Freedom Caucus and others 
demanded. Unable to stop the debt bill's passage last week, the conservatives 
are now digging in and preparing for a longer fight to prevent it from taking 
hold.

   It's all setting the stage for a potentially disastrous showdown ahead, when 
Congress will need to pass spending bills to fund the government at the levels 
set by the McCarthy-Biden debt package, or risk a shutdown in federal 
government operations when the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

   The test will likely come even sooner, this summer, when the Biden 
administration is expected to ask Congress to approve supplemental funding for 
Ukraine to fight the war against Russia. It's an issue that splits the 
Republicans between those who want to cut budgets and those insisting on a 
strong military.

   Aligning with the defense hawks, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell 
raised his own concerns Wednesday about the cap on military spending: "I'm not 
sure at this point how to fix it, but it's a problem, a serious problem."

   While the conservatives have aired a long list of grievances, the debt deal 
looms largest.

   The McCarthy-Biden compromise set overall federal budget caps -- holding 
spending flat for 2024, and with a 1% growth for 2025 -- and Congress still 
needs to pass appropriations bills to fund the various federal agencies at the 
agreed-to amounts. That's typically done by Oct. 1. After Biden signed the debt 
deal into law last weekend, lawmakers have been fast at work on the 
agency-spending bills ahead of votes this summer to meet the deadline.

   Not only did the conservatives object to the deal with Biden as 
insufficient, they claim it violated the terms of an agreement they had reached 
with McCarthy to roll back spending even further, to 2022 levels, to make him 
speaker.

   "There was an agreement in January," Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., told reporters 
after he left the speaker's office Wednesday morning. "And it was violated in 
the debt-ceiling bill."

   McCarthy insists the agreement he made during the speakers race to roll back 
spending to 2022 was not a guaranteed outcome, only a goal. Besides, the debt 
deal has a provision that would automatically return spending to the 2022 level 
if Congress fails to put in place all the funding bills by January.

   "We never promised we're going to be all at '22 levels --I said we would 
strive to get to the '22 level or the equivalent amount," McCarthy said 
Wednesday. "We've met all that criteria."

   McCarthy also said he's not opposed to more funding for Ukraine, but he 
wants to see exactly what's needed rather than simply agree to undoing the 
spending caps that he negotiated with Biden and that were just signed into law.

   Democrats watching the fallout from the debt-ceiling deal are mindful of the 
challenges ahead.

   "I think it's going to be tough," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the 
top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

   "You've got a whole bunch of people who want to cut back," she said of the 
Republicans. "Potentially they could hold up appropriations."

   If Congress fails to pass the spending bills by fall it risks a federal 
government shutdown -- an outcome conservatives have forced multiple times 
before, starting in the Clinton era when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich led the 
House into a budget standoff, and again in 2013 when conservatives shut down 
the government as they tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

   The longest federal shutdown in history was during the Trump era when 
Congress refused his demands for money to build the border wall between the 
U.S. and Mexico.

   For now, McCarthy and his leadership team need to just figure out how to 
bring the House chamber back into session.

   "This is insane," said Republican Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas. "This is 
not the way a governing majority is expected to behave, and frankly, I think 
there will be a political cost to it."

   The bills on tap this week were not the most pressing on the agenda, but are 
popular among Republicans and carry important political messages even if they 
have no chance of becoming law.

   Among them is a pair of bills related to gas stoves, including one that 
would prohibit the use of federal funds to regulate gas stoves as a hazardous 
product.

   House action came to a sudden halt midday Tuesday when the band of 
conservatives refused to support a routine procedural vote to set the rules 
schedule for the day's debate. It was the first time in some 20 years a routine 
rules vote was defeated.

 
 
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