McCarthy–Schumer Working Relationship Already Strained

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
January 17, 2023Politics
McCarthy–Schumer Working Relationship Already Strained
(Left) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks at a press conference at the Capitol building in Washington on Aug. 27, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images); (Right) Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters in Washington on May 19, 2022. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

News Analysis

Working relations between Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are already strained as the two leaders are set to take on key issues that will require bipartisan efforts, including upcoming negotiations on how to handle the U.S. national debt and the impending debt ceiling.

Both leaders have raised challenges on how the other branch of congress handles its agenda.

In a Jan. 12 op-ed, McCarthy touted several of the bills and resolutions that have already passed in the Republican-majority House since he was elected as its speaker. McCarthy wrote about how the House passed a bill to repeal funding for 87,000 new IRS agents, and passed a rules package that included the formation of the “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government.”

In his op-ed, McCarthy said that the House “also promised the Senate that the days of last-minute, trillion-dollar omnibus packages are over,” appearing to reference the $1.7 trillion omnibus Congress voted on mere hours after the bill was introduced, and passed largely along partisan lines in the House when it was controlled by Democrats in December.

A group of about 20 Republicans opposed McCarthy’s bid for the speakership until he made several concessions, many of which related to how the Republican-majority body will handle debt and spending. Among those provisions is a rule that sets up a separate vote for any time Congress wants to raise the debt ceiling, and a “cut-as-you-go” measure that prohibits the House from considering legislation that increases mandatory spending within a five-year or ten-year budget window. The rules package also imposes a 72-hour wait period before the House can vote on a new bill.

In his Jan. 13 “Dear Colleague” letter, Schumer wrote that the Senate “will look for opportunities to reach across the aisle and work in a bipartisan way” but shared doubts about the current direction of the House under McCarthy’s leadership.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen this week from House Republicans is more chaos and ultra MAGA proposals,” Schumer wrote. “I want to work with Speaker McCarthy to get things done, but so far, House Republicans have been focused on delivering for wealthy special interests and the extreme wing of their party.”

Schumer Accuses House GOP of Creating Conspiracy Committee

In his letter, Schumer appeared to describe the new House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government as a “conspiracy committee to undermine and threaten law enforcement.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the new select subcommittee, has defended its formation by citing the Department of Justice launching investigations against parents protesting at school board meetings, and the FBI paying Twitter in excess of $3 million as the agency referred Twitter to user content that the social media website censored.

Schumer said this “conspiracy committee” is showing that the Republican House majority is “more interested in defending January 6th insurrectionists and carrying water for the disgraced former president than protecting democracy.”

Schumer also criticized recent Republican House bills on abortion. Last week, the House passed a bill requiring healthcare practitioner’s to provide medical care to newborns that survive an attempted abortion and a resolution condemning arson and violence against pro-life organizations.

“House Republicans continued their all-out assault on women’s health, proposing legislation that once again shows they are hell-bent on enacting a nationwide abortion ban,” Schumer wrote. “Their extreme views are dangerously out of touch with mainstream America, and Senate Democrats will ensure women will have their health care strengthened, not undermined.”

McCarthy, Schumer Don’t Have Much Of a Relationship

Congressional aides and strategists who spoke with The Hill recently, have said Schumer and McCarthy don’t have much of a working relationship. While he has been a House minority leader, McCarthy is new to the speakership and thus has never lead the House opposite Schumer’s Senate leadership.

“There’s been no reason up until now for them to have a relationship,” Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist and former aide to the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told The Hill.

McCarthy, who had to go through 15 rounds of votes to win enough support from Republican holdouts for his speakership, may not want to be seen turning around to form a strong positive relationship with Schumer.

“Openly and publicly having a good relationship with Schumer doesn’t help him,” Mollineau said.

While McCarthy doesn’t appear to have much communication with Schumer, Republican congressional aides have told The Hill that McCarthy does meet regularly with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Debt Ceiling Could Test Their Ties

The U.S. debt ceiling could be the first major test of McCarthy’s working relationship with Schumer and whether the Republican-controlled House can work with the Democrat-led Senate.

On Friday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States could hit its debt ceiling this week, forcing Congress to either raise that limit or take “extraordinary measures” (pdf) to avoid defaulting on the government’s obligations. If the government can’t meet its obligations it may see its credit rating downgraded.

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