House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was asked on Tuesday whether he was willing to make any concessions in his budget talks with Democratic leaders. “We are going to raise the debt ceiling,” the California Republican replied.
In other words, as far as Congress’ top GOP official was concerned, while Democrats scramble to find a compromise that would prevent default, McCarthy argued that his willingness to allow the United States to pay its own bills was the one area on which he’d be flexible.
It led me to wonder whether the House speaker even understands what “concession” means — a point the Republican congressman bolstered soon after during a Capitol Hill press conference. Asked anew why he wouldn’t make at least some concessions in the interest of reaching a bipartisan deal, McCarthy pointed to his own priorities.
“We’ve offered a lot of concessions,” he told reporters. “The cap on the spending is a Democrat idea. The work requirement was a Democrat idea.”
In other words, the House speaker would have people believe that his ideas are actually Democratic ideas that count as “concessions,” reinforcing concerns that he’s either trying to deceive the public or he literally doesn’t know what a concession is.
But that wasn’t the only problem. The Associated Press reported:
A defiant House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday the debt ceiling standoff was “not my fault” as he sent Republican negotiators to the White House to finish out talks, but warned the two sides need more time as they try to reach a budget deal with President Joe Biden.
In fact, McCarthy didn’t just use the blame-avoidance phrase once in passing.
A report in The New Republic noted that the House speaker ended up using the phrase “not my fault” five times during a 13-minute press conference.
“Doth protest too much” keeps coming to mind.
This need not be complicated. Before the 2022 midterm elections, McCarthy left little doubt that he was prepared to launch a debt ceiling crisis. After he eventually seized the speaker’s gavel, the Republican followed through, creating the crisis by announcing that he and his far-right conference would demand a ransom in exchange for paying the nation’s bills.
In the months that followed, McCarthy helped write a debt ceiling hostage note. He helped pass the ransom note. He refused to take default off the table. He refused to offer concessions. He refused to consider a clean bill. He refused to attach a debt ceiling increase to a separate bill, as leaders of both parties have done for generations.
In other words, this is McCarthy’s debt ceiling crisis. He’s had months to change course, but the weak GOP leader, no doubt fearing a backlash from his own members who might try to oust him, stayed the course, even if that meant threatening Americans’ economic wellbeing and threatening to crash his own country’s economy.
The Republican congressman can keep saying “not my fault,” but the repetition won’t make it true.