House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hopped on his mountain bike one morning during the debt ceiling issue and rode along the National Mall, admiring the monuments.
He brought tortilla chips and queso for the harried media waiting outside his office during the 24/7 talks when he arrived for negotiations at the Capitol the following day.
McCarthy, who exudes a laid-back Californian air, was never Washington’s favorite to take the gavel as speaker because he came dangerously close to doing so in a spectacle that would go down in history earlier this year.
But now that the nation’s debt limit has been raised through negotiations with Democratic President Joe Biden, the 58-year-old is leading House Republicans in the most precarious high-wire act of his career.
He must secure the votes needed to pass the spending reduction package into law.
The impasse is being closely observed by people all over the world as the United States approaches a deadline of June 5, when it may not have enough money to pay its obligations, potentially throwing the American economy into chaos with an unprecedented default and causing a catastrophe in the global economy.
McCarthy needs Democratic cooperation for the agreement because he only has a slight majority in the House.
However, the arrangement unveiled late Saturday is not anticipated to please either party.
McCarthy will have accomplished something unlike anything he has ever done if he is successful in getting the budget-cutting agreement passed by Congress.
He might also lose everything if Republicans try to remove him from office because the right-wing finds the agreement he negotiated with the Democratic White House intolerable.
As he entered the Capitol on Saturday morning, McCarthy told reporters, “One thing you’ve always understood about me is that I don’t give it up.
It doesn’t matter how many times it takes, he said, as long as you achieve a deal deserving of the American people.
McCarthy has maintained unwavering optimism during the trying negotiations that have lasted for weeks, gliding through the anxious hours and appearing confident in the result.
He has always been taken for granted, but he is nothing if not persistent.
Only after McCarthy had worn out his colleagues and made a variety of pledges and compromises to hard-right conservatives did he finally win the speakership after 14 failed votes.
McCarthy is not regarded as an experienced lawmaker who has studied policy in depth or authored numerous significant measures.
Arriving in Congress in 2007, he quickly advanced to leadership positions as a political strategist rather than a policy expert.