WASHINGTON — Kevin McCarthy became Speaker of the House in part because he empowered skeptical Conservatives to force a vote of no confidence if he ever betrayed them.
McCarthy betrayed them last week – but so far the hardliners have made no move to retaliate, much less take away McCarthy’s gavel, despite their promises of a “settlement” over the debt ceiling with President Joe Biden.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said Tuesday that the group has yet to agree on a course of action.
“The Freedom Caucus is currently evaluating the circumstances and trying to figure out how we can improve our position,” Perry told HuffPost. “We generally understand what our opponent is, and we work to defeat our opponent who is pursuing leftist, liberal, destructive, armed policies – whether they come from the Republican Party or the Democrats.”
The Freedom Caucus supported McCarthy’s approach to the Biden administration — a refusal to allow the federal government to borrow money to fund operations unless Democrats agree to spending cuts and stricter “work requirements” in federal aid programs.
But many members of the group balked at the agreement McCarthy reached, which suspended the debt ceiling longer than desired, cut federal spending less than desired, and tightened safety-net eligibility for some groups while relaxing it for others. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) expressed the opinion of many Conservatives last week called the bill a “shit sandwich” and said it was a “Treason.”
In January, McCarthy bolstered his support among Conservatives by agreeing to amend the House Rules, allowing a single lawmaker to table a “motion to vacate the presidency” and force an early referendum on the speakership. Previously, such a motion required the support of a majority of the party to trigger a vote. Roy also claimed McCarthy promised not to pass legislation with more Democratic than Republican votes, as is the case with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
A handful of Freedom Caucus members last week suggested that they would prefer to submit a motion to resign, but none have done so. That’s partly because there’s no clear alternative to McCarthy – meaning the referendum could wreak havoc with no apparent end. And several high-profile Conservatives, like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), backed the bill altogether, bolstering McCarthy.
When asked if a repeal motion was off the table, Perry simply replied that “it’s in the rules for a reason.” When asked about the repeal motion last week, Perry said his focus was on getting the debt ceiling bill to thwart, and whatever happens next, “We will decide once we finalize the final version of this bill.” President Biden signed the bill into law Saturday.
Rep. Ralph Norman (RS.C.), a Freedom Caucus member who reluctantly backed McCarthy in January and called the debt ceiling deal “idiotic,” hinted Tuesday that McCarthy’s reckoning was yet to come could – but that this would not be the case. It would not be “fair” to request a resignation now.
“It was a shock,” Norman said of McCarthy driving the debt ceiling bill through the House with a Democratic vote. “But this is a marathon, not a sprint.”
McCarthy’s allies claimed the media had consistently misjudged the speaker and his standing within the Republican conference.
“You’ve underestimated us since the beginning of this Congress,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.), a member of McCarthy’s executive team. “We keep winning.”