It appears that Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) dream of making drastic cuts in the federal budget as a condition for raising the debt limit is dissipating by the second, with reports suggesting that he doesn’t even have the Republican votes he needs to take a knife to spending programs.
Jackie Calmes of The Los Angeles Times notes that when GOP House members saw the actual cuts McCarthy is proposing, many of them balked and said they cannot support such draconian measures.
We got evidence of the squeeze this week, even as McCarthy, in his on-again, off-again debt ceiling negotiations with President Biden, was full of budget-cutting bravado to reporters. Just before midnight on Monday — midnight! — the House Appropriations Committee canceled its Tuesday and Wednesday meetings when voting was scheduled on the first of the dozen bills that annually fund the federal government’s operations. Those bills have to fill in the gory details of the spending cuts that Republicans left unidentified when they passed McCarthy’s debt limit bill last month.
The devil, the old saying goes, is in the details, and that’s the problem: McCarthy cannot get the votes he needs to enact his massive cutbacks.
Oh, and as you’d expect, when the Speaker couldn’t muster the votes, he began lying to cover the reason he was calling for a postponement.
The stated reason for the postponement: The committee’s Republican majority wanted to give McCarthy “maximum flexibility” in his talks with Biden.
The real reason: They didn’t have the votes to pass their own bills. Failure, in turn, would have undercut McCarthy’s leverage in the negotiations.
Clearly, McCarthy is getting hit on both sides. The White House is telling him the cuts are a no-go and his own Republican colleagues are also letting him know they won’t sign their name to anything that could hurt them politically with an election now just a little more than a year away.
Oh, and there’s also the matter of Republican hypocrisy, which was revealed when it was reported that they also intend to try and extend the Trump tax cuts for billionaires.
Even then, the savings generated would be small relative to the nation’s annual budget deficits. And Republicans, if they have their way, would in effect wipe out those savings by extending all the Trump-era tax cuts for another decade, adding trillions more to the federal debt they purport to fear.
What will McCarthy do? Probably what politicians are known for doing: Declaring victory and walking away really quickly before anyone can ask any questions. It’s the old Washington two-step, and all it requires is the willingness to pretend.