Follow Us

House Speaker fight foreshadows larger debt ceiling battle on the horizon for GOP

Although newly elected Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) ultimately prevailed in his bid for the office over a small but determined band of conservatives, his slim majority in the House will be vulnerable if conservatives rebel over debt reduction.

Published: January 5, 2023 5:09pm

Updated: January 7, 2023 11:13pm

The gridlock that paralyzed House Republicans over the past week in their quest to elect a new Speaker could be a foretaste of more to come, with party moderates and conservatives set to tangle in the months to come over raising the debt ceiling and reining in reckless government spending. 

Although newly elected Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy ultimately prevailed in his bid for the office over a small but determined band of House Freedom Caucus members, his slim GOP majority in the House will be vulnerable if and when conservatives rebel again down the road, as some are predicting, in an effort to reassert debt reduction as a top priority for the party. 

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) told Just The News this week the practice of running up the debt via massive spending bills must be reexamined and promptly fixed.  

"There is a lot of good faith negotiation on how to make this institution work better so that it's not broke," he said, "so we don't have an omnibus bill on Christmas Eve that's 3,000 pages that nobody has time to read that is stuffed with terrible earmarks. There really is a need to examine how Congress works and how to make it work a better.”

In an interview on the John Solomon Reports podcast this week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) also stressed the urgency of budgetary reform and a return to to fiscal responsibility.

"You need to involve the American public in what government spends and what we fund through their elected representatives," said Johnson, who won reelection to a third Senate term in the recent midterms. "The way you do that is you restore a process. And that process is: Pass a budget; if you can't pass a balanced one, use the debt ceiling increase the way it was designed to be increased, which is attach to it fiscal controls that will help you keep things under control in the future, and then use that budget to drive an appropriation process.

"There'll still be massive spending bills, I mean there'll be hundreds of billions of dollars — just one of them — but at least it's more under control."

Johnson said he wasn't "freaked out at all about" the prolonged impasse over the election of a new House speaker, viewing it as a small price to pay "if it results," he said, "in the leadership, no matter who that is, embracing principles that are conservative, embracing and guaranteeing — an ironclad guarantee — that they will pass a budget, use the debt ceiling the way it was meant to be used, and bring up all the appropriation bills to deliver to Chuck Schumer's Senate. 

"And then here in the Senate, our responsibility would have to be use every parliamentary maneuver that we have at our disposal to bring those appropriation bills up in front of the Senate and just start a better process. This [existing process] is so horribly broken, so grotesquely dysfunctional, and we're mortgaging our kids' futures as a result."

In interviews on the "Just The News No Noise" television show, Reps. Ralph Norman (R-VA) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.) hinted that fiscal conservatives in the House will be ready to go to the mat to enforce fiscal discipline.

"I've talked to other congressmen, [and] they want to make a dent in the spending that's taking place," Norman said Tuesday amid the impasse over the election of a House speaker. "And the only way you do it, is do what we're doing," he said, referring to conservative holdouts' efforts to extract concessions in exchange for voting for McCarthy.

"And the fact that in nine months," he continued, "we'll be facing another issue with the debt, you know: Are we going to raise the debt? Are you willing to shut the government down? And if the answer is they're not willing to shut the government down? Just because it's an election year? We're gonna get an answer to that. Oh, we'll sit here all night, for months ..."

McCarthy must "have a blueprint for what he's going to do, and economic security is national security, and we need somebody that's gonna stop this Biden administration from putting us on to total socialism," said Norman.

In an interview on Thursday, Scott touted the new leverage conservatives have acquired to enforce fiscal discipline. "We've changed the rules on the conference, it now requires 50% of the conference, the Republicans, to say yes to a spending bill, to say yes to a debt limit increase," he explained. "When I listen to other members ... say, 'McCarthy will have a straitjacket on' — we put the rules in place so that the Senate cannot take advantage of the American citizens the way they've been doing for years."

While he's comfortable with McCarthy's ability to lead the House GOP conference, Scott said, he's placing his trust in "the rules that we put in place in protecting the American citizens from us continuing to spend a trillion dollars more than we have to spend." 

In an interview Friday on the John Solomon Reports podcast, former Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra warned the GOP runs a huge risk if they do not obtain budgetary concessions from Democrats before voting on a debt ceiling increase.

"The Republicans are going to have a couple of chances where they've got the leverage, and the debt ceiling vote is one," said the former House Intelligence Committee chairman. "The next one will be an omnibus or a spending bill for 2024. Those are the things, and if the Republicans cave on either one of those votes, they're in trouble ...

"They're gonna have to exact a hard price out of the Senate and out of the Biden administration that really demonstrates to the American people that they're serious about getting spending under control."

Republicans have got to "win the argument" because the country can no longer "sustain a $30 trillion debt that is bigger than the American economy and that's driving inflation," said Hoekstra. "So they've got to tell the American people why this is important for them, to get federal spending under control."

Longtime tax reduction activist Grover Norquist, meanwhile, argues that the most reliable method of constraining government spending remains strictly limiting taxation."When you say 'No' to tax increases, you actually do rein in spending at the state level, at the local level and at the federal level," he said Thursday on John Solomon Reports. "Even with the capacity to run deficits. You still bring spending down from where it would be otherwise. And the Republicans have not faltered on that line in the sand. Taxes are not going up. And that is the beginning of the fight."

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook


Just the News Spotlight

Support Just the News