Can McCarthy Pass the Debt Limit Deal and Keep His Job?

The House speaker attempted to strike a careful balance: he could lose conservatives’ votes but could not afford to reach a deal that so infuriated the far right that they would move to oust him.

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Can McCarthy Pass the Debt Limit Deal and Keep His Job? |

One of the rules that helped Representative Kevin McCarthy be elected House Speaker earlier this year allows for a snap vote to remove him from the post.

Hard-right lawmakers who have for years resisted increasing the nation’s borrowing limit did not mince words about how they thought Speaker Kevin McCarthy fared during negotiations with President Biden over averting a federal default.

“Nobody could have done a worse job,” said Representative Dan Bishop of North Carolina, who said he was fed up with what he said were Mr. McCarthy’s “lies” about the deal he was going to get.

Representative Bob Good of Virginia openly marveled at how “our own leadership” caved to Democrats on major tenets of the debt limit bill that Republicans passed last month. Representative Chip Roy of Texas claimed the deal had torn the conference “asunder” and promised Republican leaders would face a “reckoning.”

But for all the fury about the deal — by far the biggest test of Mr. McCarthy’s leadership since he became speaker in January — few far-right Republicans have yet to seriously entertain the notion of ousting him over it.

A movement to depose Mr. McCarthy as speaker could still bubble up, particularly if he is forced to rely on Democrats to win a procedural vote to get the debt-limit deal to the floor or to lean more on Democratic votes than Republicans to pass the measure. So far, though, there has been little appetite for such a move among even the most conservative lawmakers in his conference.

Mr. McCarthy negotiated the compromise with that threat in mind, attempting to strike a careful balance: he could — and likely would — lose conservatives’ votes, but could not afford to reach a deal that so infuriated the far right that they would move to oust him. When asked on Tuesday by reporters if he was worried about whether the hard-right flank of his conference would try to remove him, Mr. McCarthy replied: “No.”

Under the rules House Republicans adopted at the beginning of the year that helped Mr. McCarthy become speaker, any single lawmaker could call for a snap vote to remove him from that role, something that would take a majority of the House.

One hard-right Republican so far — Mr. Bishop — has publicly said that he considered the debt and spending deal grounds for ousting Mr. McCarthy from his post.

Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press Now” that he had discussed the issue with the chairman of Freedom Caucus, Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania. “Let’s get through this battle and decide if we want another battle,” Mr. Buck said was the response.

And in what has become a hallmark of his leadership style, Mr. McCarthy has rallied the support of an influential conservative whose opposition to the deal could have doomed the bill: Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, an influential libertarian who sits on the powerful Rules Committee.

Catie Edmondson is a reporter in the Washington bureau, covering Congress. @CatieEdmondson

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