A group of hardline conservatives continued their revolt against Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday, blocking action on the House floor for a second straight day in protest against McCarthy’s deal with the White House to raise the debt limit.
The 11 rebels, mostly members of the Freedom Caucus, have taken advantage of their power in the narrow 222-212 Republican House majority to prevent bills backed by party leaders from advancing. That has brought legislative action in the chamber to a halt.
The hardliners argue that McCarthy’s deal with President Joe Biden failed to cut spending to the levels the speaker had promised and accuse party leaders of retaliating against a member who voted against the deal.
“House Leadership couldn’t Hold the Line. Now we Hold the Floor,” Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida tweeted on Wednesday, a day after the unexpected conservative uprising led to a failed procedural vote on some Republican bills — the first time since 2002 that a rule failed on the House floor.
“I feel blindsided,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday morning, adding that a handful of people can create problems. But, he said of the rebels, “you’re not going to get 100% of what you want — so you can’t take hostages.” Democrats will surely find that comment rich.
McCarthy dismissed any concern about his job. “We’ve been through this before. We’re the small majority,” he said. “You work through this and you’re going to be stronger.”
A push for deeper spending cuts? McCarthy denied reneging on a promise to conservatives regarding spending levels. "We never promised we're going to be all at '22 levels,” he told reporters, according to Roll Call. “I said we would strive to get to the '22 level or the equivalent ... amount of cut. We've met all that criteria.”
Still, the speaker suggested that future spending levels could be set at levels below the caps in his deal with the White House. “Whenever you put a cap, that’s the ceiling,” he said. “We can always spend less. I’ve always advocated for spending less money.”
It’s not clear, though, just what McCarthy might do to end the standoff. “Complicating the path to a resolution, the conservatives don’t appear to have a ready list of demands that might break the impasse,” The Hill’s Mike Lillis reported Wednesday afternoon. “Some have suggested they want the power to amend every bill that hits the floor. Others have suggested they want to revisit all the concessions McCarthy made in January, to make them more rigid. And still others suggested their problems with the Speaker are more fundamental than any structural changes could fix.”
Why it matters: The conservative’s blockade highlights the depth of their displeasure over McCarthy’s deal even if they have not yet moved to oust the speaker. Their revolt also “diminishes hopes that the debt-limit deal might be a template for more legislation drawing together both parties’ moderate wings,” Bloomberg’s Billy House writes.