Conservatives in the US House of Representatives are fuming and looking for ways to hurt Speaker Kevin McCarthy after they came out on the losing side of a showdown over the debt limit.
That was the message that two members of the far-right faction delivered, perhaps unwittingly, during an interview Tuesday evening with Steve Bannon.
The former Breitbart chief and Trump White House strategist hosted the two lawmakers for a conversation after far-right Republicans in the House joined with Democrats to defeat a key vote on a resolution condemning the Biden administration for encouraging Americans to choose electric over gas stoves.
In the interview, the two explained (as their colleagues had earlier on the House steps following the vote) that they were going to make Mr McCarthy’s life a living hell until he sided with their group and began supporting the extreme demands of the Freedom Caucus and other right-wingers.
“McCarthy has to decide who his coalition partner is going to be, Hakeem Jeffries or us,” said Mr Gaetz during the discussion, referring to Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of the Democrats.
“We’re going to force him to be in a monogamous relationship with one or the other,” he continued.
It was a bold statement, but one that may be toothless. There’s little the House can do to pass meaningful legislation anyway, given the Democratic Senate and White House, and for all the threats of a no confidence vote from the far right, it’s unclear whether another candidate would be able to garner the necessary number of votes to lead the thin GOP majority in the lower chamber.
The battle to select that leader lasted more than a dozen votes when it took place in January; a bruised Mr McCarthy emerged on the other side having reportedly made numerous concessions to his far-right colleagues.
Whether he intends to follow through on those commitments is another matter, and the Speaker’s office has yet to give any indication of yielding to the Freedom Caucus’s whims.
The far-right faction suffered a major defeat in recent days with the passage of a deal between Mr McCarthy and the White House to extend the debt ceiling. The deal did freeze federal spending levels but did not go nearly as far to cut spending as conservatives demanded.
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