"Many of the same House GOP extremists who nearly denied Kevin McCarthy the speakership did their utmost this week to tank the bipartisan debt and budget agreement he struck with President Biden," wrote Milbank.
"Rep. Chip Roy (Tex.) wanted colleagues to know 'what a turd-sandwich this ‘deal’ is.' Rep. Dan Bishop (N.C.) told me and other reporters that the hard-liners needed 'to fix this s--- sandwich.' Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.), at a news conference, declared it 'crap.' And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) said she needed sides and a dessert in order 'to eat [this] s--- sandwich.'"
"But this time, McCarthy didn’t cower and cave. He made these vulgarians clean their plates. He told the right-wing hooligans to stuff it, and he took his debt compromise to the House floor — where something remarkable happened Wednesday night," he wrote.
"More than two thirds of Republicans stuck with McCarthy, leaving the 71 GOP holdouts isolated. At the same time, nearly 80 percent of Democrats voted for the package, putting more D’s than R’s in the yes column and lifting the bill to passage by a lopsided 314-117. Watching from the gallery, I felt more hopeful about our politics than I had in some time."
McCarthy, Milbank noted, has spent his Speakership caving to the right flank, including when he passed an extreme list of demands for the debt ceiling out of the House just a few weeks previously.
As predicted, now the hardliners like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are threatening to hold a confidence vote to boot McCarthy from the Speakership — but, Milbank wrote, their position looks "weak"; even most of the Freedom Caucus didn't show up to their opposition event, and key far-right figures like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and even perpetual ultra-libertarian firebrand Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), threw their support behind McCarthy and the deal, depriving them of powerful allies. They could still in theory have the power to throw out McCarthy — it only takes one member to call a vote under the rules he agreed to break the deadlock over electing him Speaker, and only five defections deprive the GOP caucus of a majority — but at this point it's possible some Democrats would defect to save him, making this a risky move.
"Unfortunately, McCarthy [now sounds] more interested in patching things up with the extremists. 'I watched Congress divided today; I watched my own conference,' he said. 'I’ll work to make sure everybody comes back,'" concluded Milbank. "But when it comes to the future of the party, and therefore of the country, the Trump question is the only question. This week provided Republicans with a road map to escape from Trumpism. The only excuse not to use it is cowardice — or complicity."