Amid sputtering 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 reportedly used by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
During their weekly, closed-door conference meeting, the House GOP caucus held a fundraising auction in which multiple lawmakers placed bids for a tube of lip balm that, as first reported by Politico’s Olivia Beavers, was supposedly used by the House speaker.
Greene — a hard-right Republican who has become 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’m honored to be able to donate $100,000 to the [National Republican Congressional 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 Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who we all think 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 was used, saying it was a new tube. When asked about the auction, a Greene spokesman simply referred back to Beavers’s Twitter thread, which Greene retweeted from her campaign’s Twitter account. A representative for Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.), whose face appeared on the tube of lip balm and who reportedly served as auctioneer, declined to comment.
Told the flavor is cherry! pic.twitter.com/E8XKByZEVR
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) May 23, 2023
It is not unusual for the GOP conference to raise money for campaigns when conference members meet at the Republican National Committee building, as they did Tuesday. Rank-and-file members are asked to donate what are essentially leftover campaign funds to the House GOP’s campaign arm. Greene, who easily won reelection to her second term in November, will transfer the $100,000 from her campaign account to the National Republican Campaign Committee.
What is unusual was the historic backdrop against which the auction took place. White House officials and Republicans have been stuck at an impasse in negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, with Democrats and President Biden pushing to raise the limit without conditions, as Congress did three times during 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, with an aim to restrain the growth of spending on an enormous part of the U.S. government. In talks, GOP negotiators have pushed these “spending caps” on domestic spending — including education, transportation and scientific programs — to reduce the deficit by trillions of dollars.
Officials in both parties have warned that the United States could default on its debts as early as June 1 without congressional approval to raise the nation’s debt limit. White House economists have said that an extended breach of the nation’s borrowing limit could wipe out more than 8 million jobs and cause “severe” economic damage.
Democrats immediately slammed the GOP’s lip balm auction Tuesday as out of touch. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) blasted “this insane chapstick [auction] while the country teeters on default.” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) wondered how much McCarthy’s used toothbrush would go for.
“MAGA Republicans are paying $100,000 for Speaker McCarthy’s chapstick while holding Social Security checks and retirement benefits hostage unless we cut food benefits for seniors, Medicaid funding, and childcare/preschool for low-income Americans,” Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.) tweeted.
Paul Kane, Jeff Stein and Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.