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Freedom Caucus members back McCarthy even as they demand no compromise in Biden debt negotiations




Members of the House Freedom Caucus and their allies are standing behind Kevin McCarthy, even as they urge the House speaker not to yield in debt limit negotiations with President Biden.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, said there was no truth to the rumors that hardliners would try to oust Mr. McCarthy from the speakership if he delivered a debt limit deal not to their liking.

“Literally nobody except the press is talking about removing McCarthy right now,” said Mr. Gaetz, who is allied with the Freedom Caucus but not officially among its ranks.

The sentiment came even as members of the right-wing caucus push Mr. McCarthy to “hold the line” in negotiations during a closed-door GOP conference Tuesday. Rep. Chip Roy, according to a source in the room, argued that Republicans were not winning in the current negotiations as the country faces $31.8 trillion in debt.

This “shouldn’t be about a deal; it should be about saving the country,” said Mr. Roy, Texas Republican.

The more than 40-member Freedom Caucus has said it wants the final deal to be as close as possible to the debt limit legislation approved by House Republicans.

SEE ALSO: McCarthy should be ‘saving the country,’ says Freedom Caucus in debt limit fight

That bill, passed in the House last month, would cut spending by $4.8 trillion while capping spending growth at 1% over the next decade. It would also rescind Mr. Biden‘s green energy tax credits and impose work requirements on food stamps, Medicaid and cash payments.

Mr. McCarthy has offered the bill as a blueprint for White House negotiations. Administration officials, however, are firmly opposed to rescinding the green energy tax credits and work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps.

While the Freedom Caucus is not in favor of the direction of the negotiations, its members are not ready to jettison Mr. McCarthy.

“We support the speaker and want him to be successful,” Rep. Bob Good, Virginia Republican. “The country needs him to be successful. The [GOP] conference is united.”

The Freedom Caucus nearly tanked Mr. McCarthy’s speakership bid earlier this year. In exchange for allowing Mr. McCarthy’s ascension, conservatives pushed through a rules package that decentralized the power of congressional leadership.

The crux of the overhaul rests on a provision allowing any lawmaker to force a vote on retaining the speaker. Given the narrow Republican majority, Mr. McCarthy can only lose four GOP lawmakers on any single House vote before having to rely on Democrats.

SEE ALSO: McConnell strikes upbeat tone as Congress heads toward default deadline: ‘Everybody needs to relax’

Mr. McCarthy is not blind to the political reality and allies say he is unlikely to bring a deal back to the House that cannot garner support among Republicans. The White House’s refusal to negotiate on the debt limit until earlier this month has also bought Mr. McCarthy goodwill from his right flank.

President Biden “ignored the looming crisis for months, despite my repeated calls to negotiate,” McCarthy said. “Because of his inaction, he risks bumbling into the first default in American history.”

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