In the second reporters' briefing of his majority leader career, California Republican Kevin McCarthy offered a strong defense of the House GOP's record in the first 100 days of the 114th Congress.
Appropriations bills are coming to the floor as early as they have since 1974, he said, with the first two up for consideration this week; and committees are passing bills at a higher rate than in the past three Congresses. The Republican-controlled Congress has sent to President Barack Obama's desk a Terrorism Risk Insurance Act reauthorization, a veterans' suicide prevention bill and legislation to fix the "sustainable-growth rate."
But McCarthy also highlighted what the House would not do under his leadership.
Don't expect the GOP to raise sequester-level spending caps, for instance, as long as Obama remains in the White House and insists on raising revenue.
"If you look our model of, how did we use to pass the SGR? We didn't engage with the administration. We engaged with people here in the House," McCarthy said.
And he strongly suggested the controversial Export-Import Bank, extended through just the end of June in last year's massive fiscal 2015 spending bill, will only come to the House floor through "regular order"; that is, if Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, passes a bill out of his committee.
Hensarling is one of the House's strongest opponents to the Ex-Im bank, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., emboldened critics recently when he said he expected the institution to expire this summer .
With the Highway Trust Fund also rapidly running low on money ahead of the May 30 deadline to replenish the coffers, McCarthy suggested a short-term extension was probably going to be necessary to accomplish the goal of enacting a long-term fix later this year.
What about paying for an extension by raising the gas tax? That, McCarthy said, would be "politically impossible."
He got some push back from reporters, who challenged House Republicans for boasting that their fiscal 2016 budget blueprint cuts spending and balances in 10 years when ultimately the document has no force of law and only takes aim at repealing the Affordable Care Act through a process known as "reconciliation" — which also has the slimmest of chances of coming to pass.
McCarthy rejected the premise that the House Republicans have been showboating versus working to enact laws that reflect their conservative values and priorities, arguing that the GOP has, just a few months into the 114th Congress, been setting the chamber on a new course.
"When was the last time you had a budget in the House and the Senate that had reconciliation?" McCarthy said. "We're starting the appropriations process earlier than we ever have. ... You gotta give us some credit for where we are. You can't premise that everything is negative and nothing's gonna happen when we have changed the behavior for every day that we've been here.
"I think the question you're asking me should actually be asked at the end of this term. ... Give us credit for what we have proved we've been able to do, and hold us accountable for what I say we'll be able to do in the future," he said.
Related: The Steve Scalise Comeback Tour Scalise: Export-Import Bank ‘On Track’ to Expire McCarthy Uses Bully Pulpit to Spotlight California Drought The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.