Kevin McCarthy sounds bipartisan, but can he be trusted? The next few weeks will tell | Opinion

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“I want to work with him to make America stronger.”

Is that former Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking about cooperating with President Biden? Or her successor, Hakeem Jeffries of New York?

Nope. It is new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the Republican who now represents much of the San Joaquin Valley in Congress.

He offered the willing-sounding point of view on Twitter in the hours before Biden’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night. McCarthy’s statement in full: “I want to work with him to make America stronger, so I’d like to hear something from him tonight about working together — especially when it comes to curbing wasteful spending in Washington.”

Earlier, in an interview, McCarthy was asked if he might tear up his copy of Biden’s speech, like Pelosi had done with one of former President Donald Trump’s. That happened after Trump refused to shake her hand on the podium, then offered a State of the Union speech full of mistruths.

“You know, I don’t believe in the theatrics of tearing up speeches,” McCarthy answered with a laugh. “I respect the other side. I can disagree on policy. But i want to make sure this country is stronger, economically sound, energy independent, secure, and accountable.”

Respect the other side. Recognize policy differences. Create a strong, secure nation.

Sounds like bipartisanship at it should be.

But is that really going to occur?

McCarthy and Biden should be able to bridge differences and work together for the good of the American people, whom they both profess they want to help.

The next few weeks, however, will reveal all. It starts Wednesday with reaction to Biden’s speech and will continue as the GOP-led House gets its committees going in earnest.

Debt a test for both McCarthy, Biden

McCarthy, the Bakersfield native son, is the first person from California’s Central Valley to be House speaker. As such, he is second in the line of succession to the presidency. Only the vice president is before him. So as one of the nation’s most powerful people, his words carry great import.

In other social media posts in the last few days, McCarthy advised Biden that the nation’s debt ceiling — the limit for paying the nation’s bills before defaulting — cannot be raised without cuts in programs. Social Security and Medicare, however, should be off the table, McCarthy said.

McCarthy and his fellow Republicans frequently use the “wasteful Washington spending” phrase to describe the federal budget.

But there are two sides to the federal coin. One side is expenses, but the other is revenue. If government had more revenue, the nation would not be in danger of default, as it is now.

Revenue for government comes in the form of taxes. Don’t jump to the conclusion that means for more taxes for average Americans, however. One must take note of this bit of history first:

In 2017 Congress approved Trump’s landmark tax-cut proposals. The corporate tax rate fell from 35% to 21%. Congress agreed to a total cost at $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

However, the value of the tax cuts was much bigger — $5.5 billion. A combination of new taxes and elimination of deductions was to make up the difference. But it did not happen, as corporate lobbyists successfully watered down the impacts.

Democrats could argue such a gift to big business is a form of “wasteful Washington spending.” Google “Trump corporate tax cuts” and you get a slew of competing viewpoints on whether the tax cuts helped anyone but the companies, their CEOs and America’s richest 1%.

The point is Congress could return taxes of the richest Americans and corporations to where they were just several years ago. Or, Congress could refuse to renew Trump’s tax cuts, which are going to be expiring within several years.

But would McCarthy and Republicans agree to either approach?

Since taking over as speaker in January, McCarthy created a new subcommittee under the House Judiciary Committee. Its name: ”Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.” McCarthy promised to form it after the FBI raided Trump’s Florida villa in the search for missing classified documents he had no legal right to take from the White House.

That does not sound very bipartisan.

Can McCarthy be trusted to really work with Biden for a stronger America for all? Time will tell.