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White House to McCarthy: ‘Come clean’ on deals with the far right

Some House Republicans want to know what Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to with his far-right members. Now, the White House is asking the same question.


The Washington Post published a striking report over the weekend, highlighting a House Republican plan related to the debt ceiling. According to the article, party leaders intend to present the Treasury Department with a list of bills the government should pay if and when Republicans push the nation toward default.

The GOP’s idea, as we discussed, is one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas. But the Post added some important context: “The plan ... was part of the private deal reached this month to resolve the standoff between House conservatives and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over the election of a House speaker.”

In other words, the new Republican majority is preparing to impose an avoidable crisis on Americans and our economy, in part as a result of a secret agreement the GOP leader struck with some of his most radical members.

This raises a variety of related questions, not the least of which is an obvious line of inquiry: What else did McCarthy agree to in order to obtain the speaker’s gavel? As Politico reported this morning, President Joe Biden’s team apparently wants to know.

The White House is escalating its fight with newly empowered congressional Republicans, with officials Tuesday calling on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to “come clean” about secretive deals he made with hardline members that helped him eventually land the top job.

In a written statement, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said, “An unprecedented tax hike on the middle class and a national abortion ban are just a glimpse of the secret, backroom deals Speaker McCarthy made with extreme MAGA members to end this month’s chaotic elections and claim the gavel. ... It is well past time for Speaker McCarthy and the ultra MAGA Republican House members to come out of the dark and tell the American people, in-full, what they decided in secret.”

This clearly isn’t coming out of nowhere. On the contrary, it was early last week when Punchbowl News first reported on “a secret three-page addendum that McCarthy and his allies hashed out during several days of grueling negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus.”

Though the new speaker later denied the existence of such an official document, other Republican lawmakers said they’d received a copy of the private agreement McCarthy reached with some of the most radical members of his conference.

As other details have emerged about the behind-the-scenes dealmaking, even some GOP members have expressed concern about being left in the dark, unaware of the details surrounding the speaker’s ascension.

And now, the Democratic White House is looking for the same answers.

As a substantive matter, it’s tough to blame the president and his team for wanting to get a better sense of McCarthy’s side deals. After all, many of the things the Californian agreed to will apparently have broad effects.

But as a political matter, the White House has been eager to show the public that it’s the Republican Party’s extremists who are helping dictate the GOP’s direction — and questions about McCarthy’s private agreements help bolster the argument.

“The few agreements we know about would fundamentally reshape our economy in a devastating way for working families and criminalize women for making their own health care decisions,” Bates added in his written statement. “They’re also planning to plunge the economy into chaos and take millions of American jobs and 401k plans hostage unless they can cut Medicare. What other hidden bargains did Speaker McCarthy make behind closed doors with the most extreme, ultra MAGA members of the House Republican conference? The American people have a right to know — now — which is why we are calling on him to make every single one of them public immediately.”

So far, the new speaker hasn’t responded, though I don’t imagine we’ve heard the last of this one.

A Wall Street Journal report from early last week added that “any agreement Mr. McCarthy made with his onetime detractors” may not “ever” be released in writing.