By Manu Raju, CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent
(CNN) — Rep. Chip Roy accused House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday of cutting a deal that could complicate negotiators’ efforts to pass a bill to raise the US debt ceiling this week.
But McCarthy’s allies quickly refuted the Texas Republican, underscoring the tension ahead of a key meeting of the House Rules Committee on Tuesday – and putting new pressure on a conservative holdout, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who has yet to take a position on the plan.
Roy contended that McCarthy cut a hand-shake deal in January that all nine Republicans on the powerful panel must agree to move any legislation forward, otherwise bills could not be considered by the full House for majority approval. That would essentially doom the debt ceiling bill since Roy – who sits on the panel – and another conservative committee member are trying to stop the bill from advancing.
“A reminder that during Speaker negotiations to build the coalition, that it was explicit both that nothing would pass Rules Committee without AT LEAST 7 GOP votes – AND that the Committee would not allow reporting out rules without unanimous Republican votes,” Roy tweeted.
Senior GOP sources acknowledged that there was an agreement for seven Republican committee members to agree to move forward in order to advance a bill to the floor, but they flatly dispute that there was a deal for all nine to sign off for legislation to advance.
“I have not heard that before. If those conversations took place, the rest of the conference was unaware of them,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota. “And frankly, I doubt them.”
The dispute is significant because Roy sits on the committee – which is divided between nine Republicans and four Democrats – as does GOP Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina. Both men have emerged as leading foes of the bipartisan debt limit bill to avoid a June 5 default, arguing it does little to rein in government spending.
A third conservative who sits on the panel – Massie – has been mum about how he plans to handle the rule vote in committee. McCarthy agreed to name all three men to the panel as part of the promises he made during his hard-fought speaker’s victory – all to give more power to conservatives on committees, including on Rules, which is typically stacked with the speaker’s closest allies.
If Massie were to join Roy and Norman and vote against the rule at Tuesday’s meeting, he could effectively stall the measure in committee.
But in January, Massie told CNN he was reluctant to vote against rules to stop bills in their tracks.
“I would be reluctant to try to use the rules committee to achieve a legislative outcome, particularly if it doesn’t represent a large majority of our caucus,” Massie said at the time. “So I don’t ever intend to use my position on there to like, hold somebody hostage – or hold legislation hostage.”
Democrats on the committee may also vote for the rule, sources told CNN, and that would ensure it has the votes to advance to the floor. But if Massie were to oppose the rule, only six Republicans would be in favor of it, complicating McCarthy’s efforts to bring the plan to the floor since he previously agreed to only take up bills with the backing of seven committee Republicans.
Massie’s office declined to comment on how he may vote on Tuesday, and neither Roy nor the speaker’s office responded to requests for comments on the Texan’s assertion.
But Republicans close to McCarthy refuted the notion that bills could only advance with unanimous GOP support in the committee.
“I’m a rules guy,” Johnson said. “And when I checked, there wasn’t a rule that something has to come out of Rules Committee unanimously. Now Chip is a rules guy too. So I think he’s going to understand that, that this is a majoritarian institution, and that ultimately, we’re going to serve Americans the best way that the majority of us know how – that’s going to be to pass this bill.”
Other McCarthy allies agreed.
“I don’t know what Speaker McCarthy agreed to, but that has not been something that any of us were familiar with,” Rep. Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma said. “I think that comment was that it had to be unanimous to come out of the Rules Committee to go to the floor is the tweet that I read. And I think that is inaccurate, at best, but I don’t know because I wasn’t in the room. I don’t know how you would have something like that functionally work.”
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CNN’s Lauren Fox, Morgan Rimmer and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.