After an epic 15-ballot election to become Speaker of the House, Republican Kevin McCarthy faces his next big test of governing a thin, fractional majority: adopting a set of rules for governing the House.
Drafting and approving a set of rules is normally a fairly routine legislative affair, but in these times it’s the next showdown for the beleaguered McCarthy.
To become a speaker and win over the doubters, McCarthy had to make concessions to a small group of diehards who refused to support his rise until he gave in to their demands.
Now those promises — or at least some of them — are being put in writing to be voted on when lawmakers return this week for their first votes as the majority party.
On Sunday, at least two moderate Republicans expressed reservations about backing the rules package, citing what they described as secret deals and the potentially disproportionate power given to a group of 20 conservatives.
Concessions included limits on McCarthy’s power, such as allowing a single lawmaker to cast a vote to remove him as president and cutting government spending, which could include defense cuts. They also give the conservative Freedom Caucus party more seats on the committee that decides what legislation reaches the House floor.
They also raise questions about whether McCarthy can garner enough support from Republicans, who hold a 222-212 advantage, in a critical vote in the coming months to raise the debt ceiling, counting. given the Conservatives’ demand that there also be significant spending cuts, compared to the opposition. of the White House and a Democratic-controlled Senate.
Rep. Nancy Mace, RS.C., a staunch McCarthy supporter, said she’s currently “on the fence” about the proposed rules.
“I like the rules package,” Mace said, referring to what was made public. “What I don’t support is a small number of people trying to make a deal or make deals for themselves privately, in secret.”
She said it would be difficult to do anything in the House if a small group had a stronger hand compared to the larger number of moderates. “I fear that common sense legislation will not be passed to get a vote on the floor,” she said.
Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, was an emphatic ‘no’ to the rules package, slamming an ‘insurgency caucus’ that he said would cut defense spending and push extremist legislation, such as on immigration .
Democrats should be united against the package.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the Freedom Caucus who is expected to lead the House Judiciary Committee, defended the concessions made by McCarthy and said he believed the rules package would receive enough Republican support to pass. . He insisted that the agreements will help ensure wider representation on committees and reduce government spending without impediments.
“We’ll see tomorrow,” he said on Sunday, but “I think we’ll get the 218 votes needed to pass the rules package.”
In the coming months, Congress will have to work to raise the debt ceiling before the government hits its borrowing limit or faces devastating defaults, including those on Social Security, troops military and federal benefits such as food aid. Lawmakers will also have to fund federal agencies and programs for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
After four contentious days of voting, negotiations and Republican infighting, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, was elected Speaker of the House early Saturday morning.
“Our general concern is that the dysfunction – which was historic – that we saw this week is not over, it is just the beginning,” said House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
The White House has rejected Republican calls to cut spending in exchange for increased federal borrowing power. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre went so far as to call House Republicans’ likely demands on Sunday a ‘hostage crisis’ that could default, an event that could spark a crisis. economic.
“Congress is going to have to raise the debt ceiling with no — no — strings attached and it’s as simple as that,” Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Joe Biden flew to Texas. “Attempts to leverage the debt ceiling will not work. There will be no hostage-taking.
Yet the White House has also said it has no intention of circumventing necessary congressional approval through possible budget gimmicks such as minting a coin to help cover a deficit that could be around $1 trillion in this fiscal year.
“We are not considering any measure that would bypass Congress,” Jean-Pierre said. “That’s not what we do. This is a fundamental responsibility of Congress, and Congress must act.
Jordan argued that “everything must be on the table” when it comes to spending cuts, including in defense, given the government’s $32 trillion debt. “Frankly, we better look at the money we’re sending to Ukraine as well and say, how can we best spend the money to protect America?” he said.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, one of 20 who originally voted against McCarthy before backing the Californian, said he and other conservatives would stand by their position that there should be spending cuts in a debt ceiling bill. Asked if he would exercise the new member authority and unilaterally initiate a vote to remove the speaker if McCarthy ultimately disagrees, Roy issued a warning.
“I’m not going to play ‘what if’ games about how we’re going to use the tools of the House to make sure we enforce the terms of the agreement, but we’ll use the tools of the House to enforce the terms of the agreement. terms of the deal,” Roy said.
Mace and Gonzales appeared on “Face the Nation” on CBS, Jordan spoke on “Fox News Sunday”, Jeffries was on “Meet the Press” on NBC, and Roy was on “State of the Union” on CNN.