Breaking Point: McConnell-McCarthy Relationship Faces Crucial Test…

Breaking Point: McConnell-McCarthy Relationship Faces Crucial Test

As the House reconvenes the following week, the relationship between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may be put to its greatest test to date.

Throughout the first few years of President Joe Biden’s administration, the most senior Republicans in the House and Senate were united on the vast majority of issues.

They collaborated on the multitrillion-dollar social spending proposal of the left. They collaborated to quash plans for a bipartisan commission on the Capitol siege of January 6, 2021. And they criticised the president’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. Recently, McConnell even deferred to the younger McCarthy during negotiations over the debt ceiling, fully supporting the new speaker as he demanded expenditure cuts in exchange for an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit.

But now, with McCarthy under pressure from conservatives, he and his Kentucky Republican counterpart could soon find themselves at loggerheads on a government shutdown, a possible Biden impeachment and a massive debate over Ukraine funding.

Already, the issues are rising to the surface.

House Republicans under McCarthy intend to continue advancing appropriations bills well below the spending levels the speaker agreed to during bipartisan debt negotiations with the White House upon their return the following week. McConnell, meanwhile, has made it plain that he expects House Republicans to keep their word and accept higher spending levels than they would prefer.

This week, McConnell urged his members to support the White House’s request for a $40 billion supplemental spending package to finance disaster relief and Ukraine aid — legislation Democrats want to attach to a temporary spending patch preventing a government shutdown on October 1. McCarthy, meanwhile, is considering separating the two and demanding more border financing in exchange for the $24 billion increase for Ukraine.

McCarthy continues to tantalise with the idea of impeaching Biden, while McConnell, who served with Biden for many years in the Senate and has previously negotiated closely with him, scoffed at the notion last month.

McConnell told Carl Huls of The New York Times, “I said two years ago, when we had not one but two impeachments, that once we go down this path, it encourages the other side to do the same thing.” “Impeachment should be uncommon. This is not beneficial for the nation.”

McConnell and McCarthy have previously been at conflict. While McCarthy remains a top ally of former President Donald Trump and speaks to him — and, let’s be honest, fawns over him — McConnell loathes the former president, privately views him as a threat to democracy, and has long been concerned about Trump dragging down lower-tier Republican candidates.

McCarthy and McConnell have differing opinions on the recent bipartisan infrastructure and CHIPS measures. While the Kentuckian and a core group of Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to pass those big-ticket bills — and hand Biden big victories — McCarthy whipped his members against both bills, railing against their price tag and claiming (accurately, it turned out) that they would pave the way for an even pricier Democratic domestic policy bill.

The males are extremely distinct individuals, to put it mildly. Yes, they are both political animals at heart, viewing every vote through the lens of whether it aids or hinders the GOP’s chances in the upcoming election. However, they do so in radically different ways.

McConnell is reserved and at times taciturn, saying little and keeping his views to himself, in contrast to McCarthy, who is gregarious, chats with reporters, and cheerfully chats with his members about their families, children, and even dogs. Even his deputies quip that being on his leadership team is like flying first class on an aeroplane: You get to sit up front, but you have no idea what McConnell is doing in the cockpit.

Their political circumstances are polar opposites. McCarthy is constantly threatened by the right, which constantly mutters about removing him as speaker. The majority of McConnell’s members are so devoted to him that, despite the scrutiny surrounding his recent health situation, they continue to support him without exception. Therefore, McConnell frequently concentrates on what he calls the “long game,” planning months and years in advance. McCarthy, on the other hand, spends each day putting out a new fire.

When Congress is in session, the two men maintain a cordial relationship and meet frequently. After Ryan’s retirement as speaker and McCarthy’s ascension to the GOP leadership, they began collaborating closely.

When Democrats impeached Trump in 2019, the two offices shared information about what was happening behind closed doors, plotted how to poke flaws in the Democrats’ case, and privately bemoaned how the unpredictable president was making their lives miserable. When McCarthy was amid his epic battle for the speakership, McConnell lent public support, and the two have met routinely ever since to plot strategy.

This month, their differences may be more apparent than usual, but don’t anticipate any major public scuffles between the two leaders.

First, they continue to share common ground. McCarthy is advocating for additional border fortifications along the U.S.-Mexico border, which both Senators support. However, they may disagree on financing for Ukraine. And, as political tacticians, each understands how to use the dynamics in the other chamber to their own advantage.

Both men have made it a priority not to tell the other what to do or how to operate their respective chambers.

These courtesies, however, will be put to the ultimate test as a result of the escalating tensions between the two chambers’ GOP rank-and-file and the ongoing squabbling between the two chambers’ GOP members.

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