“I’m honored to be able to donate $100,000 to the [National Republican Congressional Committee] to help Republicans increase our majority in 2024 and defeat the Democrats. My constituents will be honored to host a visit with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who we all think is doing a great job,” Greene said in a statement.
The moment illustrates the strange reality that House Republicans find themselves in: With McCarthy and President Joe Biden still substantively far apart on a debt deal just days ahead of the Treasury Department’s projected deadline, they have little to do but defend the speaker and raise questions about the reliability of Treasury’s estimate. So far, they say they’re strongly united behind McCarthy.
Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), who has been tapped by McCarthy to lead the debt negotiations, estimated early Tuesday evening that of the dozens of issues they are discussing with the White House team, “some of them we’ve made substantial progress [on] … and in other ones we’re still really far apart.”
“There’s some areas that I think we’re very close,” Graves added, while cautioning that they still have disagreements in a “majority of the other categories” beyond spending, where they also still have significant gaps.
Democrats greeted the McCarthy chapstick auction, which was first reported by POLITICO, with barely masked alarm.
“They [are] doing this insane chapstick shit while the country teeters on default. Wild,” tweeted progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
“Spending $100,000 on chapstick while working overtime to gut the programs that working families rely on. GOP priorities in a nutshell,” echoed Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.).
The fundraiser during Tuesday morning’s closed-door GOP conference meeting lasted about 15 minutes with first-term Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.) leading the auction — after all, it was his campaign’s branded chapstick up for bids. Other members who bid included Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) and Jason Smith (R-Mo.).
After the bidding and call for contributions to the NRCC concluded, House Republicans returned their focus to the debt ceiling. During that portion of the meeting, they expressed skepticism about June 1 being as firm of a potential debt default “X-date” as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has suggested.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) used the meeting to urge his colleagues to call Yellen to testify on her estimate in front of the House Financial Services Committee before June 1, the Florida Republican confirmed.
“So far, she’s been the Obi-Wan Kenobi of wrong answers on the economy,” he said leaving the Tuesday meeting, alleging that Yellen is following White House orders to heighten the public urgency of a looming debt default.
Gaetz added that Yellen has less to show backing up her forecast for a potential default than a student completing “a typical eighth grade algebra assignment.”
That skepticism was echoed by Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who said that “we’d like to see more transparency” on how the Treasury came up with its warning, reiterated on Monday, that the nation risks being unable to pay its bills as soon as next week.
As White House negotiators left the Capitol for the day Tuesday, Scalise said told reporters that there was “nothing new to report yet” on forward momentum. McCarthy reiterated the positive tone he’s taken since the week began, telling reporters that “I believe we can still get there” on a deal to avert default, “and get there before June 1.”
A Treasury spokesperson declined to comment on the House GOP rhetoric. And Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who is helping Graves negotiate with the White House, backed up Yellen — noting that she has pointed to June 1 as a potential deadline “and she is in charge of cash management.”
“There’s a whole bureaucracy within the within the Treasury. They don’t play games. … So I don’t think there’s any wiggle room for us,” McHenry said.
With just over a week to go until June 1, McHenry suggested that he is already hearing from corners of the financial sector, CEOs and donors: “I would tell you that my texts are a dumpster fire.”
Jordain Carney and Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.
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