WASHINGTON, June 4 – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Sunday lauded the debt ceiling deal he negotiated with Democratic President Joe Biden, but a prominent House conservative warned that McCarthy has “credibility issues” that may prompt some Republicans to seek his ouster as the top Republican in Congress.
Representative Ken Buck, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said the deal had failed to deliver the deeper spending cuts that McCarthy had promised his party when he ran for speaker in January.
The debt ceiling deal keeps fiscal 2024 spending flat at this year’s levels, allowing a 1% increase for fiscal 2025. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the deal will cut deficits by about $1.5 trillion over a decade from its current-law baseline forecast.
House Republicans in late April passed a bill demanding $4.8 trillion deficit reduction over 10 years in exchange for a debt ceiling hike, drawing Biden into negotiations that led to the deal’s Senate approval on Thursday.
Asked whether the Freedom Caucus would seek a vote to oust McCarthy in response to the deal, Buck told CNN’s State of the Union program: “I don’t know if the motion to vacate is going to happen right away. I do know that Speaker McCarthy has credibility issues.”
To win the speakership in a fractious election process in January, McCarthy agreed to rule changes that allow just one member to force a vote to oust him, making him unusually vulnerable to hardline Republican conservatives.
Other Republicans rushed to McCarthy’s defense a day after Biden signed into law the legislation that suspends the debt ceiling until Jan. 1, 2025, averting what would have been a disastrous U.S. payments default that was expected on Monday.
“Speaker McCarthy’s position is absolutely safe,” U.S. Representative Garret Graves, a Louisiana Republican who helped negotiate the debt ceiling deal, told CBS’ “Face the Nation”.
McCarthy told Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that the deal marks a rare reduction in non-defense discretionary spending, prevents the hiring of more Internal Revenue Service agents next year and increases funding for defense and veterans.
“It’s not perfect but it is a beginning of turning the ship” on spending, he said. “Now we’ve got to do the rest of the job.”
Buck said that McCarthy promised Republicans that he would cut spending levels to fiscal 2022 levels, not the higher 2023 levels agreed in the deal, making the deal a loss the party.
The deal was approved by 149 House Republicans – a strong party majority – along with 165 Democrats. Forty-six Democrats, mostly progressives, spoke out against the deal, saying it enforced stringent work requirements on poor families who receive food assistance or monetary aid and others who face obstacles to employment.
Senator Mike Lee, a conservative Republican from Utah, also criticized the deal saying it likely would allow U.S. debt to increase by $4 trillion by the start of 2025, telling Fox News Channel that Republicans and Democrats conspired to “fund as much of everything they possibly can without economizing.”
Buck said that much depends on McCarthy’s actions in future spending negotiations and whether he will need to rely on the votes of Democrats to pass legislation as he did with the debt ceiling.
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