While House Republicans are clashing with the White House over the nation's debt limit, some paused negotiations this week to focus on something else: Used chapstick.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene paid $100,000 for a tube of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's cherry lip balm as part of a fundraising event for Republican political campaigns. Greene initially remained out of the bidding war — until Speaker McCarthy sweetened the deal by agreeing to attend a donor event with the winner.
"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 to Politico.
The moment signifies a strange time on Capitol Hill as House Republicans and President Joe Biden still appear to be far apart on a deal to raise the nation's debt limit. The U.S. Treasury Department has given a so-called "x-date" of June 1 for when the U.S. will default on its debts and be unable to pay its bills. A potential default would have concerning consequences for the U.S. economy, resulting in the temporary suspension of government benefit payments that millions of individuals depend on.
Nonetheless, some Republicans appear to be more fixated on the next election cycle, rather than a looming economic collapse. And Democrats are calling them out.
"Spending $100,000 on chapstick while working overtime to gut the programs that working families rely on. GOP priorities," Rep. Nydia Velazquez tweeted.
"They doing this insane chapstick sh*t while the country teeters on default. Wild," Rep. Ilhan Omarechoed on Twitter.
Speaker McCarthy said Thursday that negotiators had worked late into the night and made progress on a deal to raise the debt limit, but added that Republicans and President Biden are "still far apart" on several issues. The White House is requesting a clean debt limit increase. But Republicans say the government has a spending problem and are calling for cuts to things like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and nixing the $70 billion in additional IRS funding that was approved last year.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington are heading home for the Memorial Day weekend recess with just six days until the June 1 deadline. House leadership said they should be ready to return within 24 hours if a deal is reached.
While the U.S. has never defaulted on its debt before, it's tough to predict what would happen. But experts warn that such a scenario could lead to a broad economic collapse, massive drops to American's 401(k)s, and the loss of millions of jobs. The last time the U.S. faced default was in 2011. That year the Treasury Department reported a $800 billion loss in Americans' retirement accounts.
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