The Taliban 20’s McCarthy To-Do List

Matt Gaetz, the unofficial spokesperson of the so-called Taliban 20.
Matt Gaetz, the unofficial spokesperson of the so-called Taliban 20. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
April 12, 2023

Congress hadn’t been back more than a few days from its March recess when The New York Times kicked a Capitol Hill hornet’s nest with a story insinuating that Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, had lost his faith in Jodey Arrington, the Budget Committee chair, to actually deliver the party’s budget. “More than half a dozen people familiar with his thinking” told the Times that McCarthy regards Arrington as incompetent; others said he had called Steve Scalise, his No. 2, “ineffective,” and so on. So much for party unity. 

The House G.O.P. proposal, of course, will be a mostly symbolic document—a framework for the spending cuts that Republicans will demand in exchange for increasing the debt limit before the U.S. government runs out of money this summer. But it’s also the critical test for McCarthy’s tenuous leadership, which he secured in January by the skin of his teeth after a grueling 15 rounds of voting. If McCarthy can’t unite his conference around a set of principles, and then navigate budget negotiations with Biden, he risks blowing up his speakership.