McCarthy struggles to control House under pressure from far-right revolts, centrists

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during a press conference after the House passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 at the U.S. Capitol on May 31. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
1 of 2 | House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during a press conference after the House passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 at the U.S. Capitol on May 31. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

June 9 (UPI) -- A tumultuous week in the U.S. House finds Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy facing intra-party pressure.

He now could even face opposition from centrist Republicans as far-right lawmakers continue to rebel over frustrations at the recent debt-limit deal McCarthy struck with President Joe Biden.


The pushback began Tuesday, when members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus voted with Democrats to defeat a procedural vote to begin debate on legislation seeking to ban the prohibition of gas stoves and other measures. It was the first time in more than 20 years that such a vote had failed.

McCarthy and his far-right critics had been negotiating behind closed doors since Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act on May 29, officially ending a weeks-long impasse days before the government would run out of money to pay its debts.


The deal reached between Biden and McCarthy suspended the nation's $31.4 trillion borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling, until January 2025 while also cutting discretionary spending. Far-right Republicans believe the legislation did not go far enough to roll back government spending.

Republican leaders were not advised of this week's revolt ahead of the floor vote and were left trying to resolve issues in the chamber, CNN reported.

Far-right Republicans, who handed the speakership to McCarthy in January after 15 rounds of voting led to apparent deals with the Freedom Caucus, had promised a reckoning ahead of the debt-limit deal vote.

"We also will enforce the agreement that we reached in January, under which Kevin McCarthy assumed the speakership," said Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C.

"It will be performed and will reforge Republican unity, because as you're seeing right now, the majority cannot function without unity," Bishop said.

McCarthy, who oversees the slim 222-213 majority in the House, was forced to recess this week. He had intended to hold more votes Wednesday, ABC News reported, but ultimately canceled them for the rest of the week -- grinding legislation to a halt until Monday.

Now, about a dozen centrist Republicans coming from mostly battleground states have held heated meetings with top Republican leadership, including Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., and Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., behind closed doors, Politico reported.


The centrist wing, Politico reported, believes Republicans are losing the opinion of the public on abortion, which hurts them in their battleground states.

Republicans fear that centrists could rebel by voting with Democrats to delay a vote on an abortion bill that would codify the Hyde Amendment.

The Hyde Amendment refers to a set of annual funding restrictions that Congress has regularly included in the annual appropriations acts for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies. It generally prohibits government funds paying for abortion services.

According to the Washington Post, Scalise previously had proposed that the bill would hit a floor vote in January. It has since been set aside because Republicans do not have enough votes to pass it.

Meanwhile, another sect of Republicans are simply frustrated that the Freedom Caucus has kept the "majority of the majority" of lawmakers from doing their jobs.

"You got the tail wagging the dog. You got a small group of people who are pissed off that are keeping the House of Representatives from functioning today, and I think the American people are not going to take too kindly to that," Steve Womack, R-Ark., said.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said a "minority" of GOP lawmakers are making demands, "despite having a Democrat president and Democrat-run Senate."


McCarthy told ABC he remains unconcerned about the standoff and does not fear possibly being voted out of the leadership role.

"We've been through this before," McCarthy said. "I didn't take this job because it's easy."

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