WASHINGTON – Texans should chair some of the most powerful committees in this session of Congress. But without the Speaker of the House, they can’t pick up their hammers. And it gets on their nerves.
“Everything follows from the election of the speaker. We can’t even take an oath. I can’t create my own committee. We are being held hostage until we resolve this issue,” said Rep. Michael McCall, an Austin Republican who is set to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee and lead a partisan investigation into the Biden administration’s failed withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives resigned after another series of votes in which the speaker of the House was not elected. Roughly 20 of the most hard-line Republican members, including Texas Representatives Chip Roy, R.-Austin, and Michael Cloud, R.-Victoria, and Republican-elect Keith Self, R.-McKinney, firmly opposed Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid. from California to the Speaker’s seat, meaning that no candidate could get the 218 votes needed to win the gavel.
Typically, committee appointments are made by early December, allowing members to recruit staff and set up the structures needed to start legislative work immediately. The leadership of the Republican Party plays a central role in choosing who will lead each committee.
But that process was shelved late last year after it became clear that this year’s speaker election would be competitive. The Republican Conference of the House of Representatives failed to muster enough of its members supporting McCarthy at the November party caucus to secure a full majority, leaving too much uncertainty for the party to begin handing out chairmanships.
This left several Texans in limbo. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Republican of Houston, is competing with two other Republicans, Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee and Clay Higgins of Louisiana, to lead the National Security Committee, which will be key to the party’s oversight program. Immigration policy of the Biden administration. Rep. Jody Arrington, R-Lubbock State, is also running for the top seat on the House Budget Committee.
“The rules are changing, who gets more power, who sits on which committee — I can’t think of a single American who doesn’t give a damn about all this,” Crenshaw told reporters. “They care about the mission. And a conservative agenda will best serve the mission of the American people. But we can’t start this agenda until we start managing.”
Other Texans slated to chair the committees include Rep. Kay Granger, who is scheduled to chair the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Roger Williams, who is running unopposed to chair the small business committee.
This affects not only the participants. Without chairs, committee support mechanisms cannot be established or funded. Members cannot access secure areas used to handle sensitive information. Crenshaw planned to double the size of the homeland security committee, but is unable to hire staff. This takes a toll on the morale of staff, who comb through cryptic numbers and legal jargon to translate ideas into the text of the bill.
“Your committees should be in order. That’s how you do the work of Congress, the work of the people,” Williams said.
Members on the right say they are opposing McCarthy as part of their broader protest against the way the House of Representatives works, demanding sweeping changes to House procedure. According to them, the rules of the House give too much power to the leadership and heads of committees at the expense of ordinary members. They are demanding a radical change in the rules and seats for some of their allies on the main committees in order to give more power to a wider circle of members within the party.
McCarthy has already agreed to many rule changes, but he and his allies say the opposition has escalated into personal disputes, and these members are trying to secure seats on the drain committee.
– You tell me what you need. I’ll beg McCarthy for it. Like what is it? And they won’t tell me,” Crenshaw told the Tribune. “Guys, you have a lot of things. Lots of concessions that many of us are actually very uncomfortable with.”
McCarthy himself asked dissenters what they wanted during the Republican conference on Tuesday, McCall said, but they were unable to provide details.
Roy and Cloud protest that their position is not personal and that the leadership’s concessions were not sincere. Cloud said in a statement on Tuesday that the McCarthy camp’s rule proposals “lacked the enforcement mechanisms needed to ensure their implementation, casting doubt on the sincerity of the reforms.”
Roy dismissed the idea that dissenters were trying to infiltrate powerful committees for self-interest. In an interview with Dana Lesh, Roy said he didn’t want to be on the house rules committee because of the additional time commitments that would take him away from his job as a parent. But he signed up to join the committee “because I’m trying to save this damn country.”
“I don’t want to serve on the drain committee,” Roy said. “I want freedom.”
Roy added that the dissenters have become even firmer in their positions since Tuesday’s conference due to McCarthy’s response to their demands. Roy was outraged by the threat from McCarthy’s allies to remove members from the committees unless they voted for him.
McCarthy and the Dissenters continued to meet on the sidelines of a lengthy roll call that had hitherto remained essentially stagnant. Roy told reporters on Wednesday that the discussions were ongoing and the members broke off voting on Wednesday afternoon to get back together.
After two days and several hours of monotonous roll-call voting, the members of the House were visibly upset and tired. Members jeered and cackled for order, and some groaned as those who were not in their camp repeated their theses. Crenshaw warned that resentment would only grow over time.
But dissenters have made it clear that they are stubborn and do not care about personal popularity in the face of their principles.
“My constituents sent me here to vote for my district and be strong,” Self said.