House Republicans are bidding for steep spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. First, though, they paused during their private weekly meeting on Tuesday to bid for something else: Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s used chapstick.
The fundraising auction of McCarthy’s used cherry lip balm ended when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) placed a winning $100,000 bid, as confirmed by her spokesperson. She only began bidding after the California Republican chose to sweeten the deal: He agreed to attend a dinner with the winner and whichever donors and supporters they planned to bring along. That cash is headed for the House GOP campaign arm.
“I’m honored to be able to donate $100,000 to the [National Republican Congressional Committee] to help Republicans increase our majority in 2024 and defeat the Democrats. My constituents will be honored to host a visit with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who we all think is doing a great job,” Greene said in a statement.
The moment illustrates the strange reality that House Republicans find themselves in: With McCarthy and President Joe Biden still substantively far apart on a debt deal just days ahead of the Treasury Department’s projected deadline, they have little to do but defend the speaker and raise questions about the reliability of Treasury’s estimate. So far, they say they’re strongly united behind McCarthy.
Democrats greeted the McCarthy chapstick auction, which was first reported by POLITICO, with barely masked alarm.
“They [are] doing this insane chapstick shit while the country teeters on default. Wild,” tweeted progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
“Spending $100,000 on chapstick while working overtime to gut the programs that working families rely on. GOP priorities in a nutshell,” echoed Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.).
The fundraiser during Tuesday morning’s closed-door GOP conference meeting lasted about 15 minutes with first-term Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.) leading the auction — after all, it was his campaign’s branded chapstick up for bids. Other members who bid included Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) and Jason Smith (R-Mo.).
After the bidding and call for contributions to the NRCC concluded, House Republicans returned their focus to the debt ceiling. During that portion of the meeting, they expressed skepticism about June 1 being as firm of a potential debt default “X-date” as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has suggested.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) used the meeting to urge his colleagues to call Yellen to testify on her estimate in front of the House Financial Services Committee before June 1, the Florida Republican confirmed.
“So far, she’s been the Obi-Wan Kenobi of wrong answers on the economy,” he said leaving the Tuesday meeting, alleging that Yellen is following White House orders to heighten the public urgency of a looming debt default.
Gaetz added that Yellen has less to show backing up her forecast for a potential default than a student completing “a typical eighth grade algebra assignment.”
That skepticism was echoed by Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who said that “we’d like to see more transparency” on how the Treasury came up with its warning, reiterated on Monday, that the nation risks being unable to pay its bills as soon as next week.
As White House negotiators left the Capitol for the day Tuesday, Scalise said told reporters that there was “nothing new to report yet” on forward momentum. McCarthy reiterated the positive tone he’s taken since the week began, telling reporters that “I believe we can still get there” on a deal to avert default, “and get there before June 1.”
A Treasury spokesperson declined to comment on the House GOP rhetoric.
Jordain Carney and Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.