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Ron DeSantis Claps Back at McCarthy in House Republican Spending Battle

AP Photo/Meg Kinnard

When it comes to the fast-moving spending battles, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is now getting even further involved to clap back at Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). On Sunday, McCarthy had made a prediction to Fox News' Maria Bartiromo that former and potentially future President Donald Trump will be the nominee, adding "I served with Ron DeSantis. He's not at the same level as President Trump in any shape or form." 


DeSantis had served in the House from 2013 until he resigned in 2018 to run for governor, during which he represented Florida's 6th Congressional District. He's currently in second place behind Trump in the polls.

During a Monday press conference, the governor addressed his record as a current executive in contrast. "What is your take on the fact that Speaker McCarthy, who was leadership back then, doesn't think that you're fit to lead," a reporter had asked.

In responding to the question, DeSantis reminded that Trump had supported McCarthy during his contentious bid for speaker, with the governor going so far as to suggest "I don't think [McCarthy] would have won the speaker vote; Donald Trump was instrumental in him earning that speaker's gavel. And they worked hand in glove, really, throughout his whole presidency."

DeSantis also addressed spending bills as well that McCarthy voted on and Trump signed into law during his term. "They were on the same team on every major spending bill that came down the pike, and they ended up, together, adding $7.8 trillion to our national debt. Never in a four year period has that much been added than what they did together."


Speaking about Florida, DeSantis noted that "we run budget surpluses." In July of last year, the governor's office pointed to a state record of a $21.8 billion budget surplus in Florida, as Bloomberg also covered at the time. 

DeSantis also spoke to paying off debt. "We've paid down almost 25 percent of our state's debt just since I've been governor," he emphasized. "All the debt, all the way up for all of Florida's history, we've knocked off almost 25 percent of it. So it's a much different approach to where we're doing it right." As Florida's Voice reported in July, debt has even been paid ahead of schedule. 

"We have the number one rated economy in the country, we've cut taxes, we've expanded school choice, and we've delivered in a way that has made the state sustainable," DeSantis continued, once more promoting his state. CNBC had released a list in July, granting Florida the top spot for the best economy. 

"I am not somebody who the D.C. establishment wants to see up there. There's no question about that. Because they know that a lot of things will be changing if I'm there," DeSantis continued.

Perhaps the most notable response came in contrast to how Republicans performed at the federal level in last November's midterm races compared to in Florida.

"And look, I would just also point out that we in Florida have a right to expect that they get some stuff done for us like they said they would when they campaigned because Florida was instrumental in them even having the majority to begin with," DeSantis said. "This was supposed to be a big red wave in 2022. You had probably the most favorable conditions that Republicans have had in a midterm elections since 1946. People were expecting a massive tsunami because inflation was terrible, Biden's unpopular, all the problems that we've seen, nobody's happy with the direction of the country. And that's tailor-made for the opposition party to be able to sweep into Washington D.C."


While DeSantis was reelected by nearly 20 points and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was reelected by 16 points, Republicans overall failed to meet expectations last November. Their current majority in the House is much smaller than expected, which is why McCarthy can only afford to lose so many members on key votes. Democrats also gained a seat in the Senate since retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) was replaced by Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA).

"Instead, the only way -- the reason they even got the majority is because the governor candidate in New York overperformed and because we delivered a red tsunami in Florida that gave them an extra four seats. That's the story of the midterm," DeSantis continued, speaking about how close former Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor, came to winning against Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY). Even with Zeldin's loss, many House members were able to ride his coattails.

"If you take that out, the Democrats would have held on to the House of Representatives. So Florida did its part. We showed how you can win. And we want to see some results as a result of that," DeSantis said, bringing it back to how he sees himself as being outside of the establishment as a positive. "But I'm not somebody who's ever going to be the favorite of the D.C. establishment, and you know what, I wear that as a badge of honor."


Republicans remain divided on the plans to keep the government funded. Some House Republicans, particularly in the House Freedom Caucus, are willing to go through a government shutdown in order to have their priorities met.  Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) has in particular highlighted concerns with the crisis at the southern border and the weaponization of the federal government.

When it comes to DeSantis' record on spending, RealClearPolitics highlighted how DeSantis has held the line on spending as a member of the House Freedom Caucus:

Deficits have ballooned during the Biden administration, and the DeSantis campaign told RealClearPolitics that a renewed focus on budget fundamentals gives the founding member of the Freedom Caucus another opportunity to draw a contrast with former President Trump.


He gave former House Speaker Paul Ryan fits over spending while in Congress, and he bucked Trump by voting against trillion-dollar budget deals. This could create a winning contrast between the governor, who has a record that fiscal conservatives like the Club for Growth adores, and the former president, who once described himself as “the king of debt” and who left behind a nearly $8 trillion tab for taxpayers.


DeSantis, meanwhile, can credibly wash his hands of that deficit spending. He opposed it while in Congress and then left for Florida. Earlier this summer, the governor signed a budget that included $2.7 billion in tax cuts. They were fully funded. Under DeSantis, the state had a $20 billion surplus.


When DeSantis was in the House and Trump was president, DeSantis voted against the $1.2 trillion omnibus in 2017 and $1.3 trillion omnibus in 2018, both which Trump ultimately signed into law.

Such a response about McCarthy is not the only way recently in which DeSantis has found himself in the news for going up against the speaker on spending. As the POLITICO Playbook Thursday edition for last week highlighted, "Behind the scenes, Ron DeSantis is making things worse for Kevin McCarthy."

As Playbook mentioned:

In the high-stakes fight that is threatening to shut down the federal government next month — and tear House Republicans apart — Ron DeSantis is taking sides.

The Florida governor spent about 30 minutes on the phone Wednesday with conservative Reps. Chip Roy of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Bob Good of Virginia — leaders of the cadre that is pushing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to embrace a shutdown if Democrats won’t agree to hard-right policy demands.

DeSantis’ message, according to a person familiar with the call: “I got your back. Keep fighting.”

The call is the latest signal that DeSantis is working to insert himself into the spending fight on the Hill in a bid to elevate his standing among Republican primary voters.

“Ron DeSantis knows that both parties — including the current and previous administration — are to blame for Washington’s reckless spending spree,” said DeSantis campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo. “He is urging congressional Republicans to hold the line in this current spending standoff and end days of rubber stamping multi-trillion dollar spending bills that harm the American people.”

DeSantis spent three terms in the House and is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, the hard-line group that is pushing McCarthy to fight harder against Democrats on spending and other members — and threatening his gavel if he doesn’t.


McCarthy was able to pull off getting the speakership, as well as get a bill to pass regarding the debt limit in June. It will certainly be interesting to see if he can get what he wants this time around and if he avoids a government shutdown.

When it comes to Trump's view on a government shutdown, he had told Kristen Welker, the new host for NBC News' "Meet the Press," in an interview that aired Sunday that "I’d shut down the government if they can’t make an appropriate deal, absolutely." The former president had also expressed "I think if they don’t get a fair deal we have to save our country," a point he emphasized while bringing up the country being $35 trillion in debt. 

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