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Just how many deals did Kevin McCarthy strike with the far-right?

It appears the official rules package isn't the only agreement House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached with his far-right members. So much for "transparency"?


As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struggled last week to get the support he needed from his own members, much of the focus was on negotiations over a proposed rules package. That made sense: The rules would help dictate how the chamber would operate over the course of the 118th Congress, and far-right members sought to use it as a vehicle that would give them power.

By and large, they succeeded: GOP members approved the package late yesterday that would, among other things, make it easier to oust McCarthy if he disappoints his conference’s most radical flank.

But what about the other set of changes McCarthy agreed to? Punchbowl News published this report yesterday morning, and it raised quite a few eyebrows.

The rules package was at the center of McCarthy’s fight for the speakership. ... However, there’s also a secret three-page addendum that McCarthy and his allies hashed out during several days of grueling negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus. This pact includes the most controversial concessions McCarthy made in order to become speaker — three seats on the Rules Committee for conservatives, freezing spending at FY2022 levels, a debt-ceiling strategy, coveted committee assignments and more.

Or put another way, if this is correct, McCarthy struck two deals, not one. There’s the official rules package, which is publicly available and received a vote on the House floor, and then there’s the side deal, which is rumored to have circulated in the form of “a secret three-page addendum.”

Complicating matters, there’s some disagreement as to whether such a document actually exists.

Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, a member of the House Steering Committee, said on the record yesterday that he was “taking a look at” and “going through” the document. Asked about whether other members had received a copy of the three-page addendum, the Californian added, “I don’t know if everybody has.”

Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, the new chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, also said he’s seen it.

Rep. Tom Cole, the new Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee, also suggested that the document is real, though it was difficult to know whether the Oklahoman was kidding. “I’m sure it exists, because I read about it from you guys [in the press] all the time,” Cole told Axios. “It has to be out there.”

Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, meanwhile, was even more mysterious, saying, “I’m not at liberty to discuss whether I’ve seen it or not.” He added, however, that “there’s pretty widespread understanding of the context of it,” apparently referring to the agreement he was reluctant to acknowledge.

The new House speaker, meanwhile, reportedly denied the existence of the addendum to his members this morning, saying there’s no “official document,” and some other House Republicans have said the same thing.

McCarthy also boasted via Twitter this morning that the new GOP majority was increasing “transparency” and creating a “more open” Congress.

It was certainly a nice sentiment, though the claims were belied by a disagreement among Republicans about the existence of “a secret three-page addendum” listing private deals the speaker allegedly struck with extremist lawmakers.

I don’t want to sound coy about all of this. It stands to reason that McCarthy reached plenty of informal handshake deals with members, each of which were struck in private. In fact, whether there’s a three-page document or not, there’s been plenty of reporting in recent days about what the new speaker has promised Freedom Caucus members, including three seats on the Rules Committee and votes on far-right legislation.

What’s less clear is why McCarthy feels the need for secrecy now that the process has effectively run its course: He’s speaker, the rules package in place, and there are so many lingering questions — including from his own members — about the concessions he accepted.

A Wall Street Journal report, published late yesterday, “Two people familiar with the negotiations said that any agreement Mr. McCarthy made with his onetime detractors wouldn’t be released in writing ahead of the rules vote, and maybe not ever.”