In the first few weeks of the 118th Congress, the House Republican majority has passed several GOP-sponsored bills, established committees that will investigate the Biden administration over the next two years, and hit the ground running in other ways.
However, those legislative successes only came after the conference elected Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as speaker of the House, a process which took four days and 15 ballots, when a group of hardline conservatives refused to back McCarthy, forcing him to agree to certain concessions before granting their support.
McCarthy’s race and early legislating have given a glimpse into the Republicans with the most power and influence in the 118th Congress and how they may use it. Here are a few of those potential power players.
First, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been cemented not only as the leader of the House but also as the leader of the House Republicans in more ways than a simple title for the 118th Congress.
In his role as speaker, McCarthy determines what bills will come to the floor to vote, giving him the opportunity to shape the agenda of Congress as a whole and frame the GOP’s message through legislation that would please the majority of Republicans, even if those bills have little to no chance of clearing the Democrat-led Senate or President Biden.
In addition, McCarthy has significant influence over the Republican Steering Committee, determining committee chairmanships and assignments for the GOP Congress. McCarthy was able to select the chair of the House Administration Committee in which he chose to install Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI).
However, McCarthy was forced to dilute some of that power during the speakership fight when GOP holdouts negotiated concessions that granted rank-and-file members of the lower chamber more power.
Perhaps the greatest dilution of that power came when they required a new policy, allowing a single member to motion to vacate the chair, which would force a vote on ousting the speaker. This mechanism was used to force former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to resign in 2015.
Arguably, even more powerful than McCarthy is Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) and the House Freedom Caucus in which Perry serves as chair. Perry and the caucus were major players in the speakership fight, as they were the driving forces behind many of the concessions that McCarthy eventually agreed to.
The group indicated that they intend to continue pushing McCarthy to further their own agenda, and, as some of the most conservative members of the House, they may be leading the GOP at large further to the right.
It took Perry 11 ballots to finally vote for McCarthy, but on the 12th vote, when he decided to support the California Republican, he brought 13 other GOP lawmakers with him, many of whom were members of the caucus.
Among the concessions the group negotiated were the single member motion to vacate the chair, and their actions secured them more members on the House Rules Committee. They were also able to convince McCarthy to hold votes on congressional term limits and a border bill.
The next clash could come over the debt ceiling. Freedom Caucus members are expected to attempt a bid to cut federal spending and decrease deficits in an effort to balance the budget. They say they were assured of this attempt in speaker negotiations.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) is a member of the Freedom Caucus who became a key participant in the speaker election.
The Texas Republican voted against McCarthy on the first 11 ballots but helped strike a deal between the GOP leader’s allies and opponents, taking a significant step that eventually led to the California lawmaker winning the gavel.
Roy was able to secure concessions that he had personally pushed for, including the single-member motion, a rule requiring 72-hours to consider a bill, a rule banning House GOP leadership and affiliated PACs from getting involved in open-seat primaries, increasing the number of Freedom Caucus members on the House Rules Committee, and creating a committee to target “weaponized government.”
Roy also opposed raising the debt ceiling without a plan to limit spending and asked that “must-pass” bills be used as leverage to pass conservative priorities, two requests that he will likely keep pushing for as the session progresses and ones that could put McCarthy and moderates in a bind.
Others, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who now heads the Judiciary Committee; Rep. James Comer (R-KY), who holds the gavel for the Oversight and Reform committee; and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), were granted committee assignments, influence, and publicity in the leadup to the decision to elect McCarthy. While they may not have changed the outcome, they can certainly be expected to have significant influence in the end.
Jordan’s Judiciary Committee, in particular, launched an investigation into the matter of President Biden’s classified documents scandal, requesting information from Attorney General Merrick Garland, while Comer’s Oversight Committee has requested information from the White House and the University of Pennsylvania after documents were found at Biden’s former office at the Penn Biden Center.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.