In a House Rules package released by Republicans on Sunday, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made some important concessions to his critics. However, it is still not clear if these moves will help him get the votes he needs to become Speaker on January 3.
As part of the compromises, a move to “vacate the chair”—a move to force a vote on getting rid of the Speaker—needs only the support of five Republicans instead of the support of at least half of the House GOP Conference, which was a rule Republicans made for themselves in November.
The chamber is also planning to make a House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government.” This seems to be in response to a request to look more closely at the Biden administration and intelligence agencies. McCarthy, writing as “Speaker-Designate,” also answered a request from conservatives to have more people on committees. He did this in a letter to his GOP colleagues.
“I will use my choices for key panels to make sure they reflect the ideologies of our conference more closely. I will also try to get the same thing done when it comes to who is on standing committees. This will make it easier to look at bills more closely from the start, which will make them more likely to pass in the end, McCarthy wrote in a letter.
But so far, none of those who are standing in McCarthy’s way have been swayed by these moves. “I think what he’s trying to do is the bare minimum he needs to do to try to get the votes. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who is the chair of the House Freedom Caucus but hasn’t said whether he will vote for or against the GOP Leader, told The Hill on Sunday that this doesn’t sound like someone who really wants to accept new ideas, reject the status quo, and bring all members of the conference together.
On Sunday afternoon, Republicans in the House talked about the Rules package on a call for New Year’s Day. After the call, nine very conservative people wrote a letter saying that McCarthy’s answer didn’t meet their standards for the motion to get rid of the chair and that he didn’t answer a request that the leadership not try to beat conservatives in open primaries.
In the letter, the members said, “At this point, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that expressions of vague hopes in far too many of the important points still up for debate are not enough.” But they also said, “The progress we’ve made so far has been helpful, and it should help us figure out what to do next.”
Perry, Reps. Chip Roy (Texas), Paul Gosar (Arizona), Dan Bishop (North Carolina), Andy Harris (Maryland), and Andrew Clyde (Georgia), as well as Reps.-elect Anna Paulina Luna (Florida), Andy Ogles (Tennessee), and Eli Crane, all signed the letter (Ariz.). Notably, Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), and Ralph Norman, who are all against “Never Kevin,” are not in this group (S.C.).
McCarthy needs a majority of all those who vote on Jan. 3 for a Speaker candidate to win the job. With a slim majority of 222 to 212, he can afford to lose only four GOP votes. The Rules package won’t be voted on until the House chooses a Speaker. The Rules package also includes changes to rules about finances, working from home during a pandemic, a review of ethics rules, and other things.
Vacate the Chair: Find a Middle Ground
The ability for any member to move to “vacate the chair,” which would force a vote on getting rid of the Speaker, has been a big issue for those who don’t support McCarthy or don’t want him to be Speaker of the House.
Conservatives say that the procedural move is a check on the power of the Speaker. When then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) made the motion in 2015, it made headlines and led to a rebellion by the House Freedom Caucus that led to the resignation of former GOP Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) later that year. But when Democrats took control of the House, they only let the party leaders make motions.
The House Republicans made a rule that says the motion can be brought up if half of the conference agrees, but people who don’t like McCarthy want the number of people who have to agree to be lower. After a lot of talks, the proposed GOP Rules package drops the number of GOP members needed to make a move to five. Perry, on the other hand, wasn’t happy with the idea.
“Leaders like [former GOP Speakers] Paul Ryan (Wis.) and John Boehner, and everyone before them, were fine working under those rules. “And now, all of a sudden, in 2022, the guy who wants to be Speaker wants to double down on what [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.]
Set up and make it even less accountable than she did,” Perry said. “That doesn’t look like unity, and it doesn’t look like the actions of someone who wants his critics to trust him.”
Some Panels Will Focus On The Biden Administration, Where Covid Came From, And China
Under the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans will bring a vote to form a select subcommittee on “Weaponization of the Federal Government.”
The creation of the select subcommittee is a response to a request from GOP members who don’t support McCarthy to form a “Church-style” committee to look into alleged government abuses. This is a reference to a 1975 Senate select committee named for former Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) that looked into intelligence agencies.
McCarthy used the same words in a letter to his colleagues, praising the idea of making a “Church-style Select Committee” whose sole job would be to show how the government was being used as a weapon against its citizens.
The committee should have the same general structure as most select committees, which means it doesn’t have its own subpoenas. But the full Judiciary Committee, which will be led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), has the power to issue subpoenas, and it is expected to go after the Biden administration hard.
Republicans are also keeping the select committee on the coronavirus pandemic under the House Oversight panel, but they are changing the committee’s mission to focus on both where the virus came from and how shutdowns affect people. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) will lead the Oversight Committee as a whole.
In the first two weeks of Congress, Republicans will also vote on whether or not to make the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. McCarthy said that Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) will lead the committee.
The Return Of Fiscal Measures And A New Look At Inflation
Republicans are bringing back the Holman Rule, which lets members propose changes to appropriations bills that cut the salaries of specific federal workers or funding for specific programs down to $1, effectively defunding them. Some Republicans have said that the rule could be used to stop funding for certain investigations and officials in the FBI, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, or officials who were involved in COVID-19 policies.
Since the summer, the House Freedom Caucus, which is made up of very strict conservatives, has been pushing to bring back the Holman Rule. It was also in the House Rules in the 116th Congress, which was the last time the GOP had a majority.
In a new move, Republicans will tell the Congressional Budget Office to look at both the budgetary and inflationary effects of legislation. This is an issue that Republicans have been talking about a lot because inflation will hit its highest level in four decades in 2022.
The package also brings back some long-standing rules about money that Democrats got rid of, like a requirement for a supermajority of three-fifths to raise federal income taxes.
The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation will also be told to use “dynamic scoring,” a method that looks at how a bill affects the economy as a whole when figuring out how it will affect the budget. Before, Republicans used dynamic scoring to show that tax cuts wouldn’t hurt the economy because they would increase economic activity and, as a result, bring in more tax money.
“PAYGO,” the “pay-as-you-go” rule that requires legislation that would increase mandatory spending to be offset by spending cuts or revenue increases, will be replaced by “CUTGO,” a “cut-as-you-go” variation started by Republicans in 2011 that requires increases to be offset by equal or greater mandatory spending cuts. Both parties have often broken the rule in the past to get laws passed.
Stop Using Rules From The Pandemic Era For Working From Home
Rules about proxy voting and working from home that were put in place because of COVID-19 are gone, as are fines for mask mandates. Members will no longer be able to watch hearings via videoconference, and only a few non-government witnesses will be able to testify to committees remotely if they can’t make it to Washington.
Last week, the House Sergeant at Arms sent a memo to House staff saying that tours and open access to House office buildings will go back to how they were before the pandemic. This will start on Tuesday.
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