Speaker bruises persist as GOP moves to tackle spending, debt ceiling and border

WASHINGTON. Republicans in the House of Representatives are trying to patch things up after a week-long battle for the Speakership marked by harsh rhetoric and tense clashes.

Last week’s knockout, drag-and-drop fight could only be the first of many this session as GOP lawmakers grapple with government spending, the debt ceiling and the border situation.

The House of Representatives on Monday was able to pass the rule package with relatively little drama, as Rep. Tony Gonzalez of San Antonio was the only Republican to vote against it.

But some mainstream GOP lawmakers are grumbling that Speaker Kevin McCarthy, D-Cal, gave the store away to a small group of conservative opponents to get the top job, and they still don’t know all the details of the closed door, handshake agreement.

Gonzalez said his “no” vote was driven by concerns about possible cuts in defense spending, as well as a change that would allow one member to initiate a “vacation proposal” vote that could be used to oust the speaker.

Supporters pointed out that the procedure was in place for years before Democrats relaxed it in 2019, but Gonzalez and other critics fear the small group of members will gain undue influence.

“You can’t let the rebel caucus take over and make its own rules,” Gonzalez said during an appearance Sunday on CBS. Facing the nation.

He was asked how the House of Representatives could resolve issues such as the debt ceiling, which would need to be raised sometime this year to avoid a market-destabilizing default.

“Yes, it will be ugly,” Gonzalez said, adding to that criticism of the Biden administration and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The answer, he said, is for the rank and file to get together and tackle issues ranging from border security to inflation. But he said he would fight the most extremist elements of his party if they went too far.

“If this rebel group decides to scrap anti-immigrant legislation and disguise it as a border security policy, it won’t work,” Gonzalez said. “And I will do everything in my power to make sure this type of legislation doesn’t work.”

Gonzalez’s name was the only one missing when the rest of the current and future Texas Republicans unveiled the immigration framework last month.

Some of McCarthy’s concessions, such as a release offer, were set out in a package of rules approved on Monday, while others were verbal agreements, such as placing more members of the conservative Freedom Caucus on the powerful Rules Committee.

He also agreed to combine the debt ceiling increase with spending limits and make it difficult to pass any taxes or spending increases.

Gonzalez’s fears that promised spending cuts will hit the Pentagon are shared by some other Republicans.

Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, chairman of the appropriations committee, said she would not support defense cuts.

Rep. Michael McCall, Republican Austin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said after the speaker’s vote that he had “deeply dived” into the spending cut proposals and was confident they would not affect national security.

He added that they would have to go through the normal legislative process.

“Most of my colleagues would not support any cuts or reductions in defense spending,” McCall said.

The last week’s feuds are likely to leave bruises even if the members try to patch things up.

Rep. Mike Rogers, D-Alabama, new chairman of the Armed Forces, traded olive branches with Rep. Matt Goetz, Florida via Twitter. Rodgers had to physically restrain another contestant on Friday night when he collided with Gaetz on the floor.

At the time, it appeared that Gaetz had just thwarted McCarthy’s bid to serve as speaker on the 14th ballot. Gatz and the other last remaining opponents then conceded to all “in attendance” on the 15th ballot, thus lowering the required vote and allowing McCarthy to become Speaker.

Rep. Chip Roy, an Austin Republican, helped broker a deal between McCarthy and more than a dozen conservatives who took part in the 12th vote.

Referring to disagreements between Rogers and Gaetz in the room, Roy told CNN Sunday that such friction is needed to change the dysfunctional nature of Congress and that it’s better that these battles happen sooner rather than later.

“When you push back the swamp, the swamp will push you back. We saw this display, everything is in order,” Roy said. “So you’re saying, ‘Well, are we going to have that kind of conflict in the future?’ I hope so.”

Roy was pressed by journalists on Tuesday about the details of any additional agreements with McCarthy. Roy said they were already in the public domain and indicated that nothing more needed to be released.

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Republican No. 2, acknowledged on Tuesday that there may be some close, messy votes ahead, but the end result is more important than the margin of victory.

“Watching this process will be exciting,” Scalise said. “I think people will be in the same mood as they were last week.”

Last week’s drama turned C-SPAN into must-watch TV, but it also resulted in hurt feelings.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, appeared on CNN shortly after Roy and tried to get along with his colleagues after he pledged to support only McCarthy last week because “we can’t let the terrorists win.”

Crenshaw said that “things are being said” in the heat of the moment.

“Obviously, to people who took offense at that, it’s pretty obvious that it was meant as a figure of speech,” Crenshaw said.

He cited the often harsh rhetoric directed against him by those elements in the party he criticized.

“If I have colleagues who have been offended by this, I sincerely apologize to them,” Crenshaw said. “I don’t want them to think that I actually believe they are terrorists.”

Many Democrats said last week’s floor fight bodes well for a tough session that could help them win a majority again in 2024.

“It will be very clear which party is doing the work and which is the drama,” said newly elected Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Dallas.

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