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Hard-right Texas Republicans vow to fight bill raising debt ceiling in Congress

By Matthew Choi, The Texas Tribune

Hard-right Texas Republicans vow to fight bill raising debt ceiling in Congress” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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WASHINGTON — Four Texas Republicans vowed Tuesday to oppose a deal by their party and the White House to raise the debt ceiling, saying it violated an agreement to reduce federal spending in exchange for their support for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

“We were a unified Republican Party standing up for the things we actually run on, actually trying to change this place, actually trying to secure the border,” U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, told reporters Tuesday. “Unfortunately last week, there was a breach.”

Roy made the remarks flanked by members of the House Freedom Caucus, including Texans Michael Cloud, R-Victoria, and Keith Self, R-McKinney. The lawmakers vowed to do everything in their power to kill the debt ceiling deal as crafted by McCarthy and President Joe Biden, arguing that it insufficiently reduces spending and effectively gives up a major bargaining chip for Republicans.

Roy, Cloud and Self voted repeatedly against McCarthy’s bid for speaker in January until they brokered a deal that included a promise to work toward substantial reductions in federal spending.

U.S. Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Houston, who supported McCarthy’s bid for speaker in January, also said he opposed the bill to raise the debt ceiling.

The deal reached over the Memorial Day holiday weekend would eliminate the debt ceiling for two years and keep nondefense spending at roughly the same level in 2024 as in the current fiscal year. The deal ended up being a mixed bag for Republicans and Democrats, with far-right Republicans angry that it didn’t go far enough — they wanted spending reduced to fiscal year 2022 levels — and progressives disappointed in its restrictions on social safety programs.

The debt ceiling bill would require more middle-age food stamp recipients to find work, though it also would leave more people eligible for food stamps. Democrats were opposed to the work requirement, and the White House reluctantly accepted the provision.

The bill also would expedite permitting for energy infrastructure and reduce spending for the Internal Revenue Service that was included in the Democrats’ climate and social spending bill last year. Republicans have vehemently opposed increases to the IRS budget.

The bill is slated for a House vote Wednesday.

Roy and the other opponents said the debt ceiling bill was a major capitulation when Republicans had the leverage to squeeze more concessions from the White House. They had previously demanded that any agreement to raise the debt ceiling also include Republican priorities like enhancing border security, rescinding new IRS funding and bolstering fossil fuels.

“Not one Republican should vote for this deal,” Roy said. “No one sent us here to borrow an additional $4 trillion to get absolutely nothing in return but at best, if I’m being really generous, a spending freeze for a couple of years.”

Cloud, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the deal eliminates incentives to cut waste in federal spending by keeping topline spending levels the same. Appropriators allocate federal funding to individual programs after Congress sets overall spending levels in the budgeting process.

“This nation cannot stand one more generation of politicians in D.C. who are willing to go out and win the messaging war but fail to secure real reforms that secure the blessings of liberty for the next generation,” Cloud said.

Roy sits on the powerful House Rules Committee, which sets the conditions for House floor action on legislation. He vowed Tuesday to do what he could in committee to stop the bill as it was written, whether it means creating a rule that would allow it to be amended from the floor or killing the bill altogether.

Roy gained his seat on the committee in January negotiations with party leaders that led to McCarthy’s selection as speaker. In a tweet Monday, Roy said part of his deal with leadership included an agreement that nothing would advance out of the Rules Committee without approval from at least seven of the nine Republican members. Committee member Rep. Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina, said he would also oppose the bill, meaning Roy’s camp could have had an opportunity to kill the bill in committee with support from just one more Republican.

But that prospect diminished when U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, said in committee that he would likely support the bill.

Roy refused to answer questions Tuesday about whether he would call on McCarthy to step down as speaker if the bill goes through. One of the most hard-fought victories for the far-right members in selection of McCarthy as speaker was the right for any one member of the House to move to “vacate the chair,” leading to a vote that could oust McCarthy as speaker.

Without a deal to raise the debt ceiling, the federal government would run out of options to pay off its interest payments on past debts. It’s an outcome that economists and members of both parties warn would lead to an economic catastrophe that could reverberate around the world.

Democrats said it was hypocritical for Republicans to call for greater spending cuts when they approved spending increases and revenue decreases under President Donald Trump.

“We have voted on raising the debt ceiling every single year with every single president, Democrat and Republican, since World War II,” U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said. “But now somehow in 2023, McCarthy and his MAGA Republicans want to make hay about budget cuts in conjunction with the debt ceiling vote. … Where were they on Trump’s spending?”

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