House Dems And McCarthy Agree On One Thing: The Speaker Doesn’t Know What His Caucus Wants

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 12: U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks at a press conference on the House Republican’s impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol on Se... WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 12: U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks at a press conference on the House Republican’s impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol on September 12, 2023 in Washington, DC. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced the House Republicans will open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden over his family’s business dealings overseas. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) acknowledged to reporters on Thursday that the growing list of demands from his far-right flank is getting to be a lot to keep track of, between impeachment, far-right appropriation bill riders and their opposition to a short term spending bill. 

McCarthy told Punchbowl Thursday morning that he’s “not quite sure what” his caucus wants.

“They have no complaints about the [defense] bill. But they don’t want to pass it,” McCarthy said when asked about government funding. “I got a small group of members who don’t want to vote for [continuing resolution], don’t want to vote for individual bills and don’t want to vote for an omnibus. I’m not quite sure what they want.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) on Thursday agreed. 

“He’s not wrong in terms of the schizophrenic nature of some of the demands that have been made by House Republicans,” Jeffries told TPM during his weekly news conference. “The one point of commonality is that it’s all extreme. It’s just different levels of extremism. But it’s all extreme. And it’s not focused on finding common ground.”

Sticking with his usual messaging, Jeffries pointed to the far-right flank of the House Republican caucus and their hostage-taking tendencies as the problem. 

Referencing the bipartisan deal President Joe Biden and McCarthy made earlier this year during the debt ceiling fight, Jeffries said those negotiations already “set top line spending numbers designed to meet the needs of the American people.”

“President Biden is committed to adhering to that agreement. House Democrats are committed to adhering to that agreement. Senate Republicans are committed to adhering to that agreement. Senate Democrats are committed to adhering to that agreement,” Jeffries told TPM.

“What’s the problem?,” he continued. “It’s obvious. The extreme MAGA Republicans.”

As funding runs out and the government heads toward a shutdown, far-right members of the Republican caucus are flexing their power over their colleagues by insisting on an impeachment inquiry while also attempting to block a short-term spending bill that leadership wants to pass to buy Congress time. In contrast, the Senate has passed all of its appropriations bills out of committee and is moving them along on the Senate floor – on Thursday senators quickly dispensed with procedural votes on several appropriations bills. 

The delays in the House are tied to a number of factors, but primarily members of the Freedom Caucus are hijacking the typically bipartisan appropriations process to jam their party’s manufactured culture wars and far-right grievances into bills that won’t pass the Senate and won’t have any Democratic support in the House. 

Before the August recess, MAGA Republicans began trying to attach anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ amendments to the appropriations bills while making noise about wanting to cut government spending to pre-COVID levels. Now they’ve put their party in the position of having created a handful of bills, some of which haven’t passed out of committee yet, that are dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, risking a shutdown as the Oct. 1 deadline looms.

When asked specifically about the Department of Defense appropriations bill, Jeffries took a shot at House Republicans for using the bill “to jam their extreme right wing ideology down the throats of military women, men and families.” 

“That is wrong,” Jeffries said. 

“And by the way, the last time I checked, they can’t even bring the defense appropriations bill to the floor because they’ve totally lost control of the floor to the extremists who are running the House Republican Conference,” he added, referring to the floor vote that was canceled on Wednesday when House Republican leadership realized they don’t have the votes to the pass annual defense spending bill.

“Hopefully, they will work it out so that we avoid a catastrophic government shutdown,” Jeffries told TPM. “But again,” he emphasized, “while we’re focused on fighting for everyday Americans, the extreme MAGA Republicans are focused on fighting each other.”

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