WASHINGTON. The House of Representatives may see another showdown in prime time late Monday night over a package of rules that determines how the body will function in the current session, as some Republicans oppose concessions made to members of the House Freedom Caucus to get votes for California Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s proposal for a speaker.
Over four days of voting last week, McCarthy failed to garner the required number of votes for Speaker. It took 15 ballots to convince 20 Republicans, including three Texans, to vote for either McCarthy or those in attendance.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, an active member of the anti-McCarthy coalition who led the talks, has repeatedly cited rule changes proposed by the faction in December that he says are necessary to empower individual members and fix the institution.
Shortly after he and 13 others voted for McCarthy on Friday, Roy said he thought the structure they were developing would “significantly change this institution.” He added that many of the provisions would allow members to hold McCarthy accountable in the future and empower individuals.
“Too few people are making too many decisions for the American people in a way that undermines the health and well-being of this institution, the country, and the American people,” Roy said Friday. “Today is the chance to change and that’s why we’re here.”
However, others argue that some of McCarthy’s concessions have gone too far.
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Wako, who previously served as Chairman of the Rules Committee, said some of the rule changes would significantly slow down the legislative process and ultimately aim to limit the speaker’s powers.
“The end result of this is a king without clothes,” Sessions said on Wednesday evening. “It won’t be a strong speaker, which means a weak majority.”
He explained that some of the provisions would allow any single or small group of members to “hold a lot of people hostage” and would pose a constant threat to Speaker McCarthy given the narrow majority and divisions within the party.
He added that some provisions could make the House more like the Senate, where the speaker needs to consult every party member before taking any action.
“You want to be able to work in an environment where not everyone has to agree, but the vast majority do,” Sessions said. “Well, now all of a sudden you have everything but one, and that’s just a high threshold for everyone and unprofessionally achievable.”
The rule changes put forward by McCarthy’s opponents that were included in the package include:
- Restore the ability of one member to apply for an exemption. This would allow any member to call a vote of no confidence in the speaker and attempt to replace him. McCarthy initially agreed to allow any five members to force a vote, but falls short of one member in an updated set of rules. This can be a powerful leverage for members of the Freedom Caucus.
- Require 72 hours after the publication of the final text of a bill before voting in the House of Representatives, and limit bills to one topic.
- Build a committee to fight the armed government by working with the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees.
- Requiring the House of Representatives to vote on proposals to reject the pertinence of an amendment, making it difficult to include various topics in bills.
Along with the measures officially included in the deal, there are several handshake agreements meant to appease opponents of the Freedom Caucus. This includes:
- The more conservative seats are on the rules committee, which decides which bills and amendments are submitted and how. McCarthy reportedly promised the Freedom Caucus three seats in a 13-member group, according to POLITICO and other media.
- A commitment to stop raising the debt ceiling without a plan to contain spending and balance the budget in 10 years. The proposed plan will cap discretionary spending at FY 2022 levels and could result in spending cuts. However, some have expressed concern that this will reduce defense spending. Roy and other opponents of the negotiations rejected this argument.
- Prohibition of political action steering committees from participating in primary elections. On Wednesday night, the Congressional Leadership Foundation, the McCarthy-approved supercomputing committee, and the conservative Growth Club announced an agreement not to interfere in safe-area open-door primaries.
- Have a general vote on a balanced amendment to the budget, border security, and term limits for Congress.
Some of the HFC’s requirements were included in the initial set of rules submitted prior to the Speaker’s vote. The main change in the proposal, passed on Monday, was the reinstatement of the one-member threshold exemption proposal.
After the speaker race was decided, some Republicans, including San Antonio Rep. Tony Gonzalez, expressed some opposition to the package, citing concerns about the release proposal and defense spending.
I am NOT in the house rules package. Welcome to the 118th Congress.
— Tony Gonzalez (@TonyGonzales4TX) January 7, 2023
“I don’t want to see us locked up every two months. This is not parliament. The American public is counting on the Republicans in the House of Representatives to be the only savior in all of this. If we can’t get it right, it’s going to be nightmare after nightmare,” Gonzalez told Fox & Friends on Monday morning.
Other Republicans pointed to the difficult position McCarthy found himself in trying to become Speaker. Austin Rep. Michael McCall said during an unsuccessful Speakers vote Thursday that McCarthy had no choice but to relent.
“Twenty people are wagging their tails at a dog,” McCall said. “He has to move the numbers in the right direction… this can’t go on forever.”
Members such as Rep. Nancy Mays, RS.C. opposed the rule package due to uncertainty that everything was agreed upon during the speakers’ negotiations.
“I like the package of rules. This is the most open, fair and financially conservative package in the last 30 years. I support this, but what I don’t support is a small number of people trying to make a deal or deals for themselves privately, in secret, to get a vote or a vote. I don’t support that,” Mays said Sunday on CBS.
With a narrow majority, McCarthy can only sustain a small number of Republican votes on Monday night’s rules package.