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McCarthy, US House hardliners reach deal to allow votes

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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached an agreement on Monday with an insurgent group of Republican conservative hardliners that will allow legislation to move forward this week, following a standoff that had paralyzed the chamber for days.

But the lawmakers, including members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, warned that they could block other measures in the House of Representatives, unless they see progress toward a “power-sharing” deal with McCarthy that would bolster their influence, particularly over spending.

“We’re concerned about the economic security of this country, and to that end we will work. If we don’t have that, there are going to be fights,” Representative Ralph Norman told reporters after he and several other members of the House of Representatives met with McCarthy.

The same lawmakers blocked legislation last week in protest over a bipartisan debt ceiling bill that passed the House on May 31 without spending cuts they had demanded.

“We had a very productive meeting tonight,” McCarthy told reporters after the meeting. “Everybody’s attitude in the room was how do we move forward to where we were.”

The House is scheduled to begin voting on delayed Republican bills on Tuesday, starting with a floor rule governing debate and votes on passage. The delayed bills would shield gas stoves from new federal regulations and give Congress the ability to block other new federal rules.

Under an agreement with McCarthy, the rule will also allow a floor vote on a firearms measure to repeal a federal ban on pistol braces that conservatives strongly support.

Norman and other hardliners told reporters they would press for additional spending cuts in 12 appropriations bills that Congress will try to enact by Oct. 1 to keep federal agencies operating during the 2024 fiscal year.

The lawmakers also want to eliminate an estimated 1,100 programs that have not been reauthorized by Congress, saying the programs represent $100 billion in spending.

McCarthy’s debt ceiling compromise with Democratic President Joe Biden set limits that would keep discretionary spending roughly flat for the next fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1.

But the hardliners are also looking to expand their influence over the House Republican agenda.

“We want to work on an accountability regime and a power sharing agreement,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, one of the hardliners. “We want to see House conservatives in a position to be able to enforce the agreements that we all make.”

Continued Republican in-fighting could complicate passage of key legislation later this year on defense and agriculture as well as spending.

With a narrow majority of 222-213, McCarthy can afford to lose no more than four Republican votes on any measure that faces uniform opposition from Democrats.

Asked how he would be able to keep the House on an even keel with hardliners ready to block measures, McCarthy replied: “I just wake up every morning, pray for the patience of Job and find a solution.”

(Reporting by David Morgan in WashingtonEditing by Andy Sullivan, Mary Milliken and Matthew Lewis)

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