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Amid debt ceiling standoff, House GOP auctions lip balm for $100,000

Amid debt ceiling negotiations and dire warnings of an unprecedented default, House Republicans found time to finalize at least one deal on Tuesday: the sale of a lip balm that would have was used by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to Rep. Marjorie Taylor. Greene (R-Ga.).

During their weekly closed-door conference, the House GOP caucus held a fundraising auction in which several lawmakers made bids for a tube of lip balm which, as first reported by Politico’s Olivia Beaverswould have been used by the Speaker of the House.

Greene – a far-right Republican who became one of McCarthy’s staunchest allies – ultimately won with a bid of $100,000, after McCarthy agreed to attend a fundraising dinner with the winner of the auction, according to Politico.

“I am honored to be able to donate $100,000 to the (Congressional Republican National Committee) to help Republicans increase our majority in 2024 and defeat the Democrats,” Greene said in a statement to Politico. “My constituents will be honored to host a visit with Chairman Kevin McCarthy, who we believe is doing a great job.”

A representative for a lawmaker who was at the House GOP conference meeting later pushed back on claims that the auctioned lip balm had been used, saying it was a new tube. Asked about the auction, a spokesperson for Greene simply referred to Beavers’ Twitter feed, which Greene retweeted from his campaign’s Twitter account. A rep for Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.), whose face appeared on the tube of lip balm and who allegedly served as the auctioneer, declined to comment.

It’s not uncommon for the GOP conference to raise campaign funds when conference members meet in the Republican National Committee building, as they did on Tuesday. Grassroots members are being asked to donate what is essentially leftover campaign funds to the House GOP campaign arm. Greene, who was easily re-elected to her second term in November, will transfer the $100,000 from her campaign account to the National Republican Campaign Committee.

What is unusual is the historical context in which the auction took place. White House officials and Republicans are locked in an impasse in talks on raising the debt ceiling, with Democrats and President Biden pushing to raise the limit without conditions, as Congress has done on three occasions under the Trump administration.

House Republicans have demanded concessions to raise the debt ceiling, pushing for spending limits on a substantial pool of federal funding that excludes programs such as Social Security and Medicare, in a bid to limit the spending growth of a huge part of the US government. In the talks, GOP negotiators pushed these “spending caps” on domestic spending — including education, transportation and science programs — to reduce the trillion-dollar deficit.

Officials from both parties have warned that the United States could default on debt as early as June 1 without congressional approval to raise the country’s debt ceiling. White House economists have said a prolonged breach of the nation’s borrowing limit could wipe out more than 8 million jobs and cause “serious” economic damage.

Democrats immediately slammed Tuesday’s GOP lip balm auction as out of touch. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) struck down “This senseless auction while the country is in default.” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) asked how much McCarthy’s used toothbrush would cost.

“MAGA Republicans are paying $100,000 for President McCarthy’s lip balm while holding Social Security checks and retirement benefits hostage, unless we cut senior support, funding for Medicaid and child care/preschool for low-income Americans,” said Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.) tweeted.

Paul Kane, Jeff Stein and Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.


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