The numerous concessions made by House Republican Kevin McCarthy to the right-most members of his conference risk preparing the House and Congress for a series of crises over the next two years.
High on the list is the US debt ceiling, potentially held hostage by far-right lawmakers to force policy concessions and spending cuts while jeopardizing full confidence and creditworthiness in the US and the global economy.
Mr. McCarthy and the Republican leadership released their proposed rules package Friday night ahead of another round of voting to choose a House Speaker. This comes after 14 Republicans who previously voted against Mr McCarthy reversed their votes to support him during the 13th ballot.
Opponents of Mr McCarthy, who becomes speaker, have often cited federal spending and the recent passage of the Omnibus Government Funding Act in December as their top concerns.
The proposed rule package would impose a ‘cut-as-you-go’ measure that would prohibit consideration of legislation that increases mandatory spending within a five-year or ten-year budget window.
It also repeals the so-called “Gephardt Rule,” under which the House of Representatives automatically sends a joint resolution raising the debt ceiling when the House of Representatives passes a budget package. That would start a separate vote on the debt limit, which is about money the government has already spent, not future spending. A default would risk an economic crisis in the US and around the world.
Before the package was released, said Rep. Scott Perry, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus The Independent that conservatives like him have long worried about spending and the debt limit. The United States is expected to hit the debt ceiling this year.
“These are our worries, and have been for a long time, and we’re tired of having them down our throats,” he said. “We feel the framework speaks to them appropriately at this point and as long as everyone agrees we can move forward together.”
Mr Perry initially voted against Mr McCarthy but changed his vote to support the GOP leader during the 13th ballot.
But the rule package could anger some Republicans who aren’t as staunchly conservative. Texas MP Tony Gonzales, an ally of Mr McCarthy, tweeted his opposition.
“I’m NO to the house rules package,” Mr Gonzales tweeted. “Welcome to the 118th Congress.”
Opposition from some Republicans could be enough in the face of Democratic opposition to thwart the rules package.
The Democrats, meanwhile, criticize the uncompromising attitude of the McCarthy defectors.
“McCarthy just approved a deal with far-right insurgents that would hold the entire US and global economy hostage to extreme cuts on everything from housing to education, healthcare, Social Security and Medicare,” Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted. “Hard to overstate how dangerous this is.”