The House of Representatives remains in disarray. Lawmakers continue to debate budget resolutions that do not yet have the votes to pass the chamber and likely won’t even make it to a vote before a 30 September deadline to fund the government passes. And a holdout contingent of Republican right-wingers is refusing to support any continuing resolution to fund the government in the meantime.
All of those tensions have been boiling for the past two weeks as lawmakers complained about the chamber leaving for the entirety of August with no progress made on a budget. Now, Mr McCarthy appears little closer to cobbling together the votes he would need in the next 72 hours to keep the government functioning.
On Thursday, he was confronted by Mr Gaetz, the leader of those holdouts, at a closed-door caucus meeting. But rather than seek a solution that would avert a damaging and costly shutdown of essential US government services, the two bickered about political attacks and hurled personal insults. Mr Gaetz and a number of other lawmakers confirmed the basic account of the exchange to reporters after the meeting.
According to the lawmakers, Mr Gaetz asked Mr McCarthy whether he had been sponsoring attacks against him in conservative media. Mr McCarthy denied the charge, apparently telling Mr Gaetz that he did not view him as worth the time or money to fight.
“I asked McCarthy a direct question: Were you out there paying for people to try to create a false negative sentiment about me online?” Mr Gaetz said in an interview with The Hill. “And his non sequitur retort was that he was giving out two and a half million dollars to other Republicans at breakfast. And I asked him how much of that money he’d gotten from FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried.”
According to multiple accounts of the conversation, that final remark resulted in a number of lawmakers derisively blowing off Mr Gaetz and his points.
“F*** off,” Rep French Hill was reported as saying.
Their latest dustup followed a conservative influencer, Rogan O’Handley, claiming that a “proxy” for the Speaker had reached out to him about a paid advocacy campaign against Mr Gaetz and the far-right push for a government shutdown.
Right-wingers on social media continue to cheer the idea of the federal government shutting down and suspending essential services like food stamps and paychecks for civilian employees of the military or other agencies. But the Senate Republican caucus and most Republicans continue to fret that the shutdown will cost the US economy billions of dollars if a deal is not reached by next week, and that Americans will blame their party for being unable to control their own caucus.
Mr McCarthy remains unwilling to cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government open at current funding levels or with anything short of the far-right’s demands due to threats by that contingent to unseat him as Speaker should he take that route.
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