GOP senators had a message for a group of current and incoming House Republicans threatening to stop any bill supported by someone who votes for the omnibus spending package in its tracks: We don’t care.
Thirteen GOP representatives and representatives-elect on Monday sent a letter calling for any legislative priorities backed by a GOP senator who supports the $1.7 trillion year-end spending bill to be thwarted in the 118th Congress.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is trying to lock down enough votes to be elected Speaker, endorsed the letter on Tuesday.
That message was met with dismissiveness and some derision from across the Capitol.
“It’s not [good]. … I mean, really? If you just think about what they’re suggesting, it flies in the face of maturity and the ability to lead,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who plans to vote against the omnibus spending bill. “The reality is this kind of chest thumping and immaturity doesn’t instill confidence in their ability to lead. Now, maybe it helps Kevin get elected speaker — I hope it does. I hope he becomes Speaker. I want him to become Speaker, but it’s not a good start to leading.”
Cramer, a former member of the lower chamber, added that the 13 House Republicans are putting the GOP leader in a “horrible spot.”
The Senate early Tuesday morning unveiled the $1.7 trillion bill, negotiated between Democrats and Republicans, to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2023. The current week-long stopgap bill keeping the government operating expires Friday at midnight.
The letter’s signatories included five who have said or strongly indicated they will not vote for McCarthy for Speaker: Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Ralph Norman (S.C.) and Bob Good (Va.).
“Further, we are obliged to inform you that if any omnibus passes in the remaining days of this Congress, we will oppose and whip opposition to any legislative priority of those senators who vote for this bill – including the Republican leader,” the letter said. “We will oppose any rule, any consent request, suspension voice vote, or roll call vote of any such Senate bill, and will otherwise do everything in our power to thwart even the smallest legislative and policy efforts of those senators.”
McCarthy on Tuesday tweeted his approval.
“Agreed. Except no need to whip—when I’m Speaker, their bills will be dead on arrival in the House if this nearly $2T monstrosity is allowed to move forward over our objections and the will of the American people,” he said.
Later on Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) office sent out a notice recommending a “no” vote on the spending bill.
Leading Senate Republicans didn’t appear to take the threat from the 13 lawmakers seriously.
“That doesn’t sound like a recipe for working together in the best interest of the country, so I think this is just words spoken during the heat of passion,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is an “aye” vote for the omnibus. “Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) labeled the letter “an idle threat.”
“I think respect for people’s votes is what [these] whole institutions are built on and that we all have different reasons for making different votes, whether it’s who we represent, what lens we’re looking through,” Capito said. “I think they need to settle their Speakership quickly, and I hope Kevin’s the Speaker.”
Capito, the newly-minted No. 5 member of Senate GOP leadership, added that it’s “pretty obvious” the letter and McCarthy’s support is a byproduct of the Speaker’s race.
Whether the threat has any teeth in a divided Congress remains to be seen.
Despite the letter, top Senate Republicans are still hopeful McCarthy makes it across the finish line. McConnell on Tuesday told reporters that he is “pulling” for the California Republican to win the top job despite a number of barbs McCarthy has thrown in the Senate GOP leader’s direction in recent weeks.
“I think Kevin McCarthy will probably be able to ultimately become Speaker of the House,” Cramer said. “I just hope he doesn’t live to regret it.”