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Kevin & The 20: A Love-ish Story

Members and allies of the original Taliban 20 group were particularly energized that McCarthy had adopted anti-“woke and weaponized” budget cuts.
Members and allies of the original Taliban 20 group were particularly energized that McCarthy had adopted anti-“woke and weaponized” budget cuts. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
May 3, 2023

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.