In less than a month, the federal government will approach and then smash through the debt limit, precipitating a crisis over a House G.O.P. debt ceiling bill that the White House has vowed to veto. Democrats are holding firm on the party line that they won’t negotiate on what they say should be a “clean” hike; Republicans, who hold the kill switch to the U.S. bond market, are under greater pressure to splinter as the final deadline nears. Nevertheless, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who controls a tiny five-seat majority in the House, has somehow kept his conference together, advancing a draconian budget proposal with no public pushback from his frenemies in the Senate.
Perhaps most terrifying for Democrats, as Biden prepares to confront Republican leaders at the White House next week, is the prospect that the House G.O.P. comity holds. Indeed, when I recently spoke with sources connected to the so-called Taliban 20—the group of far-right representatives who took McCarthy’s speakership hostage in exchange for a power-sharing agreement earlier this year—they expressed something I have frankly never heard from any of them: admiration for McCarthy and trust that the man they once considered the ultimate RINO can deliver for them. “McCarthy’s coalition government is more stable than either the media or the Biden administration would like to believe,” a source close to The Twenty told me.
False solidarity, perhaps—and McCarthy did lose two members of his five-vote majority—but if there are hidden cracks in the alliance, nobody is speaking out of school. Even the Center for Renewing America, the far-right think tank that previously backed The Twenty in their efforts to extract concessions from McCarthy, offered up praise. “I do think that McCarthy has played things very well, up until this point, and I think he has a chance to be a historic speaker if he continues to do so,” a spokeswoman for the Center told me.