Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) on Tuesday became the first Republican to publicly support ousting Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over the debt ceiling deal he struck with President Biden as conservative criticism of the agreement ramps up.
At a House Freedom Caucus press conference Tuesday, members vented their frustration with the agreement and urged their colleagues to vote against it, but Bishop was the sole Republican to raise his hand signifying he would support a motion to oust McCarthy over the bill.
“I think it’s got to be done,” Bishop told reporters after the press conference.
But Bishop did not commit to filing a motion to vacate the chair, which would trigger a vote on removing McCarthy as Speaker.
“I’ll decide that in conjunction with others,” Bishop said.
Hard-line conservative Republicans had for months brushed off questions about whether they would seek to replace McCarthy as Speaker if he struck a debt limit deal that did not meet their standards.
But members of the House Freedom Caucus and beyond were infuriated the debt limit bill announced over the weekend did not do more to cut spending and complained other provisions Republican leadership touted had massive loopholes.
“I want to be very clear: Not one Republican should vote for this deal. Not one. If you’re out there watching this, every one of my colleagues, I’m gonna be very clear: Not one Republican should vote for this deal,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said. “It is a bad deal.”
The measure imposes spending caps, rescinds unspent COVID-19 funds, increases some work requirements for public assistance programs and more.
“I’m just fed up with the lies, I’m fed up with the lack of courage, the cowardice,” Bishop said. “And I intend to see to it that there is somebody who’s prepared to say what needs to be done.”
Bishop was one of 20 House Republicans who withheld support for McCarthy for Speaker in January, resulting in a historic 15-ballot Speaker election. Those members secured commitments to pursue policies like cutting government spending — and restoring the threshold for a “motion to vacate the chair” to just one member, down from a standard of five put in place under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
While Bishop is the first member to explicitly call for ousting McCarthy over the debt limit bill, other members have been signaling they could be willing to do so.
“If I can’t kill it, if we can’t kill it on the floor tomorrow, then we’re going to have to then regroup and figure out the whole leadership arrangement again,” Roy said on conservative radio host Glenn Beck’s show Tuesday morning.
Other members of the House Freedom Caucus are putting focus on trying to stop the debt deal before talking about removing McCarthy.
“Let me put it this way. I think this bill indicates exactly why I have concerns about him being Speaker,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said.
“It is a failure of leadership for us to surrender all the leverage and all the strength that we had with the majority House and this Limit, Save, Grow bill in the 11th hour,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.).
No Speaker has been ousted from the position through the rarely used motion. Former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) last filed a motion to vacate the chair against former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2015. That motion was referred to the House Rules Committee and defeated but is widely thought to have helped push Boehner to resign from office later that year.
McCarthy brushed off conservative criticism of the bill.
“I’m not sure what in the bill people are concerned about. It is the largest savings of $2.1 trillion we’ve ever had,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday, citing what Republicans say is preliminary Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates of how much the deal could reduce the deficit.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, though, said the bill did not repeal enough of an IRS funding boost approved last year; noted there are provisions in the bill that can be waived; and accused Republican leaders of misrepresenting how much money the bill saves.
“This deal plays the same fuzzy math shell game fiscal games that this place has played for years,” said Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas).
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) noted the bill’s appropriations targets beyond 2025 that fuel the CBO estimate are not enforceable.
“Tomorrow’s bill with a bunch of fake news and fake taking points that will nothing to bring an out-of-control of federal spending,” Boebert said. “If every Republican voted the way that they campaigned, they would vote against tomorrow’s bad deal.”
“There is a reason why 100 Democrats, none of which voted for our initial bill, is now for it,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) “They got what they want. And Kevin McCarthy did a good job of speaking the language.”
Bishop did not directly answer a question about who he would have liked to have seen negotiate with the White House other than McCarthy over the debt limit.
“There’s 222 members of the Republican conference. Nobody in the Republican conference could have done a worse job,” Bishop said of McCarthy’s negotiation with the White House.
Aris Folley contributed. Updated at 2:55 p.m. EDT