Kevin McCarthy’s Debt-Ceiling Deal Gets Approval From the Billionaire Class

Kevin McCarthy’s Debt-Ceiling Deal Gets Approval From the Billionaire Class

Kevin McCarthy’s Debt-Ceiling Deal Gets Approval From the Billionaire Class

Within hours of the vote on a deal that protected tax cuts for the rich, the Republican speaker was off raising funds from… the rich.


After bringing the nation to the brink of economic catastrophe, and then negotiating a debt-ceiling agreement that literally made it harder for hungry people to get food, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hightailed it out of Washington on an urgent mission: to collect tributes from the oligarchs who keep him in power.

Forget about the posturing with regard to debts and deficits. All that you need to know about McCarthy’s intentions can be summed up by the fact that on the day after the House approved a debt-ceiling agreement that imposed austerity demands on the poor while failing to ask anything of the wealthy, McCarthy was off to raise campaign cash.

Before the US Senate had even agreed to the deal that McCarthy hailed as a history-making accomplishment, the speaker was in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood for a fundraising event—one of two on June 1 in California—where attendees paid tens of thousands of dollars to enjoy the speaker’s company.

An invite to the San Francisco “Team McCarthy” event, which was obtained by veteran political reporter Tim Redmond, provided donors with the option of paying as much as $100,000 to sit at the head table for the gathering that was arranged to collect cash for the “McCarthy Victory Fund.” That’s one of the election accounts that McCarthy uses to maintain his tenuous grip on the speakership, by funding the campaigns of the candidates whose elections are essential to Republicans’ control of the House.

McCarthy’s Victory Fund collected tens of millions during the 2022 election cycle, which gave the GOP narrow control of the House. The speaker is determined to raise even more money before the 2024 election, where control of the chamber is very much up for grabs—especially after a surprise US Supreme Court ruling secured Voting Rights Act protections in congressional redistricting cases.

McCarthy has been fundraising at a feverish rate since taking over as speaker. In March, his aides celebrated “the generosity” of the billionaires, corporate insiders, and related big donors who steered a record $35 million into McCarthy’s accounts during the first three months of 2023.

But let’s be honest. The donors to the McCarthy Victory Fund aren’t being generous. They’re being transactional. McCarthy delivers services—tax cuts, deregulation schemes, lucrative government contracts for defense contractors, an easing of GOP pressure on tech industries—and then he collects contributions from people who can write very big checks. The invite promised:

  • For $25,000, donors who attended the San Francisco event would gain access to “2023 Team McCarthy Bronze Conference Benefits.”
  • For $50,000, donors would enjoy “2023 Team McCarthy Silver Committee Benefits.”
  • Those $100,000 donors could count on “2023 Team McCarthy Gold Caucus Benefits.”

This is how the process is designed to operate. As former US senator Russ Feingold succinctly summed up, it is “an opaque system of legalized bribery and legalized extortion.” The only thing that distinguishes McCarthy is his utter lack of shame when it comes to timing.

McCarthy had no qualms about partying with the high-rollers—in one of the finest houses in one of the toniest neighborhoods in one of the wealthiest cities in the United States—just hours after House Republican leaders led the charge for a scheme that made it harder for as many as 750,000 hungry Americans to get food, while maintaining tax cuts for the rich. It was an obscene arrangement that could not be justified in any moral or practical sense.

But that didn’t seem to bother McCarthy’s benefactors: people like his hosts Trevor and Alexis Traina, the über-rich couple whose palatial domicile gets written up in the annals of elite living. Trevor Traina, a son of privilege (“raised amid all the pomp and circumstance that San Francisco society can muster”), tech investor, and Republican donor, was Donald Trump’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Austria. And people like Marc Benioff, the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of the software giant Salesforce, whom the San Francisco Chronicle identified as an attendee: Benioff famously declared in 2019, “It’s time for a new capitalism—a more fair, equal & sustainable capitalism that actually works for everyone and where businesses, including tech companies, don’t just take from society but truly give back and have a positive impact. Values create value.”

So what “values” do donations to McCarthy and his donors support?

US Representative Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat who serves on the Appropriations Committee, noted that the debt-ceiling agreement rescinds “critical IRS investments intended to crack down on wealthy tax cheats.”

That’s a big benefit for the billionaire class. But not the only one.

After the debt-ceiling agreement was reached, Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who is the fossil fuel industry’s errand boy on Capitol Hill, went out of his way to praise the speaker for using his negotiating position to fast-track the controversial Mountain Valley pipeline—a top priority for the industry, which has drawn fierce opposition from advocates for clean air, clean water, and necessary responses to the climate crisis.

“How did the Mountain Valley Pipeline wind up in the Debt Ceiling Deal?” asked Sierra Club President Ben Jealous. “Because some Members of Congress value the profit of big oil and big gas more than they value people—sending a sign that their fat cat lobbyists can make end runs around the entire federal government every time there’s a debt ceiling crisis.”

“Some Members of Congress” is a polite way of saying “Kevin McCarthy.”

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