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Rep. Kevin McCarthy May Face Big Problems If GOP Wins Narrow Majority In House

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WASHINGTON — A faction of far-right Republicans have all but promised they’ll threaten a government shutdown if the GOP wins back the House of Representatives within the upcoming election, putting leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a precarious position.

Members of the Freedom Caucus have said they’ll oppose any government funding bill that expires before the following Congress, when Republicans could control the chamber and have more leverage to make demands.

“We should always not fund a government that is constant to permit open borders to endanger the American people,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said Wednesday on the House floor alongside Freedom Caucus chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.).

It’s an illustration of the challenges that can confront McCarthy, the present House minority leader, if his party prevails in November’s midterms — especially if it wins by a small margin, which seems increasingly possible.

Earlier this 12 months, polling suggested that Republicans would retake the House in a “red wave,” giving them gigantic majorities. However the polls have shifted, and the latest evaluation from the Cook Political Report says only 212 races currently lean Republican, while 31 are toss-ups.

Republicans need 218 for control. They may wind up with a majority as slim because the Democrats’ current four-seat cushion, which was barely enough to pass a couple of symbolic police reform bills this week.

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) speaks at a news conference with members of the House Freedom Caucus on Sept. 15 in Washington.

Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Meanwhile, an initial letter from Roy this week about opposing a short-term funding bill garnered 41 signatures from his fellow Republicans, and McCarthy has said he would vote no as well.

Government funding expires at the top of next week, but Democrats plan to pass a so-called continuing resolution to forestall a shutdown and provides current lawmakers time for a more complete funding bill after the midterms — but before latest ones are seated. Democrats can pass the resolution without Republican help.

The Freedom Caucus would relatively wait until early next 12 months — when the GOP might need more power — to vote on funding the federal government.

“If we don’t get change next week and we get a unbroken resolution into December, we should always demand change in December,” Roy said in his speech. “And if we don’t get change in December, we should always demand change in January or February or March.”

The issue is, even when Republicans take each chambers of Congress, Democrats will still have filibuster power within the Senate and veto power within the White House. The Freedom Caucus wants maximalist changes on immigration, energy and vaccines, but it’ll accept a government shutdown if it might’t get them.

“I’m not curious about funding bureaucratic assholes who’re making my people less protected in Texas,” Roy told HuffPost on Thursday. “If Biden desires to shut down the federal government, that’s on him.”

Roy served as chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) throughout the infamous 17-day shutdown that he helped lead in 2013. The move didn’t defund then-President Barack Obama’s Inexpensive Care Act, but Roy noted that “Cruz did quite well in 2016,” when he placed a distant second to Donald Trump within the Republican presidential primary.

A spending showdown is unlikely in early 2023. Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate Appropriations committees are establishing a lame-duck vote on an omnibus spending bill that may fund the federal government through next 12 months.

Rep. Tom Cole, a veteran Republican appropriator from Oklahoma, told HuffPost that a short-term spending bill necessitating high-stakes votes in February or March could be unfair to newly elected lawmakers still settling into their offices. And he suggested it will be futile to attempt to placate the Freedom Caucus.

“You possibly can’t write an appropriations bill with a Democratic president and think you’re gonna get every thing you would like,” Cole said.

“I’m not curious about funding bureaucratic assholes who’re making my people less protected in Texas.”

– Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas)

However the Freedom Caucus can have other opportunities to throw its weight around. Sooner or later next 12 months, Congress might want to increase the federal borrowing limit, which allows the federal government to proceed to spend money as lawmakers have already required.

Conservative Republicans have increasingly sought to carry the federal government’s creditworthiness hostage for other demands. Just this month, Trump complained that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “gave it up for nothing” last 12 months.

A Speaker McCarthy would face a selection: side with the Freedom Caucus and threaten a default on the national debt, with potentially catastrophic economic consequences, or work with Democrats and risk his role as leader.

The Freedom Caucus demanded earlier this 12 months that a Republican House pass bills only with a “majority of the bulk,” meaning it will not approve of McCarthy passing a bill with Democratic votes. Not coincidentally, it has also sought a change to House procedure that may make it easier to throw out the speaker.

One Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), suggested that McCarthy has done job getting together with different Republican factions and won’t have such a tough time. In spite of everything, McCarthy survived an audio recording that exposed he was pondering of telling Trump to resign the presidency after the Jan. 6, 2001, riot on the Capitol.

“Remember when those comments got here out? They stayed with him, which I just think is proof of his efforts to bridge that gap,” Green said.

Most significantly, Trump has stayed with McCarthy, seemingly delighting within the leader’s efforts to placate him.

Roy refused to say whether he’d back a House GOP mutiny in a hypothetical scenario where McCarthy works with Democrats. As a substitute, he noted that McCarthy had backed the Freedom Caucus within the low-stakes lame-duck spending fight.

“That’s sign,” Roy said.

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