McCarthy ties energy, regulatory demands to debt talks

By Jeremy Dillon | 04/17/2023 01:26 PM EDT

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during remarks in New York City on Monday. Seth Wenig/AP Photo

This story was updated at 7 p.m. EDT.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy directly linked Republican demands on energy, permitting and regulatory oversight to the broader debt ceiling negotiations during a speech Monday morning at the New York Stock Exchange.

The California Republican outlining a framework of demands confirms weeks of murmurs of what House Republicans are seeking to extract as part of the debt ceiling negotiations with the White House, even as exact language and what hard-line conservatives are willing to accept remain elusive. More details could emerge as soon as Tuesday.

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Limitations on federal spending to fiscal 2022 levels and inclusion of major provisions from the recently passed “Lower Energy Costs Act,” H.R. 1, led the demands pitched by McCarthy.

“I think if we attach that to a debt ceiling, growing our economy, that’s going to save us money in the long run,” McCarthy said, noting that changes to permitting could benefit renewable energy deployment in addition to fossil fuels.

“So not only could we lower energy costs, which will lower inflation, lower the cost of goods, let families keep more money in their pocket, but geopolitically we can make the world safer and, environmentally, we can lower global emissions,” said the speaker.

In addition to those asks, McCarthy hinted at more congressional oversight of regulations. Reports have indicated that pushing for H.R. 277, the “Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act” from Florida Republican Rep. Kat Cammack, has generated consensus among the GOP. It would require that major rules be approved by Congress.

Additional demands include more stringent work requirements for social welfare programs, clawing back unused Covid-19 funds and a limit on federal spending increases of no more than 1 percent annually.

“In the coming weeks, the House will vote on a bill to lift the debt ceiling into next year, save taxpayers trillions of dollars, make us less dependent on China and curb high inflation — all without touching Social Security or Medicare,” McCarthy said.

Debt ceiling negotiations have essentially stalled for two months, without a meeting between McCarthy and President Joe Biden since they huddled in early February. The White House insists it will not negotiate until Republicans release their plan.

The impasse is raising the prospect the U.S. crashes into a default later this summer. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the nation would reach the debt ceiling between July and September.

McCarthy’s speech represents the first official marker for the broader debt ceiling framework put forward by Republican leadership since the party took the House majority in January.

“There’s two things I will not do: I will not raise taxes and I will not pass a clean debt ceiling,” McCarthy said. “It just won’t pass, so why don’t we sit together and find ways to put us on a better path?”

Democrats have echoed the demands from the White House for Republicans to put out their plan before they are willing to negotiate.

“A speech is not a plan. Extreme MAGA Republicans continue to treat the full faith and credit of the United States as a hostage situation while their so-called budget proposal remains in the witness protection program,” Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) spokesperson Christie Stephenson said in a statement.

“As always, we will evaluate any legislative text when and if House Republicans can ever agree with themselves about how much they want to devastate American families in order to finance tax cuts for the wealthy, well-off and well-connected,” she added.

Senate Majority Leader Chick Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded during a press conference Monday afternoon and during floor remarks in the evening. While calling on the House GOP to finalize its plan, Schumer pushed for a clean debt ceiling increase.

“I’ll be blunt,” said Schumer. “If Speaker McCarthy continues in this direction, he is heading us toward default.”