By Molly K. Hooper - 07/23/12 08:33 PM EDT
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the third highest-ranking House Republican, said Monday that the Senate, and not the House, was playing politics with the looming fiscal cliff.
The majority whip disputed that an upcoming vote in the House to extend former President George W. Bush’s expiring tax rates was a “show vote,” since the Senate is not likely to consider it.
McCarthy was referring to the so-called “fiscal cliff” that looms at the end of the year if Congress and President Obama allow the Bush-era tax rates to expire, and fail to act on $1.3 trillion of automatic spending cuts included in last summer’s debt ceiling deal and due to take effect beginning on Jan. 1, 2013.
The GOP majority House has passed numerous bills to prevent or change the automatic cuts – half of which are set to come from the defense department; and are likely to pass the one-year tax cut extension the first week of August. The Senate however, has not acted on those items.
McCarthy noted that though leaders have looked ahead to a potential lame duck session, the House has acted on bills to prevent the nation from reaching the fiscal cliff.
“There's still time to do a lot of work and not have it go into a lame duck session, a lot of that probably doesn't hinge on this House because the House has done its job,” he said.
McCarthy appeared less optimistic about the prospects of a massive farm bill making it to the House floor in the near future.
He said he had not officially whipped his members on the long-controversial agriculture subsidy bill, but intends to consider it before year’s end.
Speaking on behalf of the House GOP leadership, McCarthy said “it’s our intention to get it done. We've got to make sure we have the votes, just like the Transportation bill didn't get done the day it came out of committee, either.”
Pressed on a timeline, McCarthy responded, “get it done before we are out for the year. Our intention is to make members educated about it -and when we have the votes we'll move it.”
McCarthy, a former Agriculture Committee member, represents a district that is one of the leading producers of fruits and vegetables in the country. He supported the 2008 farm bill, including its subsidy spending, until tax increases were included in the bill.
McCarthy managed to turn a reporter’s question -- on the recent controversy surrounding Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) concerns about possible radical Islamist infiltration of the U.S. government -- back to the economy.
Asked if Bachmann’s request for an investigation into ties between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, and the Muslim Brotherhood, have been a distraction, McCarthy sighed before saying, “look, we're focused on stopping the red tape and stopping the tax hikes."
He noted that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had weighed in on the matter last week.
“I think the Speaker spoke to the process and where it is,” McCarthy said.
He appeared to disagree with Bachmann’s concerns of lax background checks of officials working at the State Department.
“I respect what the State Department's done in terms of background checks, I have no knowledge of anything wrong with it,” McCarthy said.
Erik Wasson contributed to this report.