The efforts of twenty House Republicans, who strongly opposed a Kevin McCarthy speakership, have paid off in a major way, extracting a slew of concessions from the California Republican in exchange for their votes, pulling power away from chamber leadership and placing it back into rank-and-file members gaining more than a little power themselves.
On Friday, 15 Republicans flipped their votes to support McCarthy during the 12th and 13th ballots. The group cited negotiations between McCarthy’s allies and some of the holdout members, as they promised to give members of the House Freedom Caucus representation in key committees, cut spending and schedule key bills for votes.
While the full terms of the agreement haven’t been released, some of the most crucial parts have been made public, such as McCarthy’s promise to form a Church-style committee to investigate politicization in the FBI. A few members of the Republican conference have also argued that the agreement gives an unfair amount of influence to the Freedom Caucus, a small, minority group composed of some of the chamber’s most vocal conservatives.
The House rules package was voted for by all but one Republican and was passed on Monday, including a provision that will allow a single member to motion to vacate the chair as well as a requirement that tax increases receive 60% support in the chamber before becoming law. The package also requires that legislation has only one subject and promises to give all members 72 hours to read bills prior to voting on them. Republicans also determined that the FBI investigation committee would be known as the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government under the House Judiciary Committee.
“You are going to have to trust the people that are put on this committee, and I’ll tell you what, if there’s something fishy going on, I’ll come out of the SCIF and tell you, but a lot of it will be behind closed doors, it will be classified information. If we find anything illegal or unconstitutional, we will bring it forward,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) told Fox News host Tucker Carlson of the committee.
Most of the provisions that were negotiated on are not included in the rules package voted on by members.
“It has to do with personnel, how members of the conference will be appropriately distributed to key committees. It is about policy imperatives. There are critical issues that we must address,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) told reporters Friday.
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) was named by McCarthy to the GOP Steering Committee over the weekend, which determines committee assignments to the Republican conference. Donalds is the second Freedom Caucus member, along with Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), on the panel.
The Steering Committee chose Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), also a member of the Freedom Caucus, to lead the House Homeland Security Committee on Monday, beating out Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a McCarthy ally and regular critic of the Freedom Caucus, for the position.
“They should be represented like all the other caucuses, but they shouldn’t have more than other members have. We should have equal representation on these committees,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) told The Dispatch of the committee appointments. “I think that’s probably where a lot of members will draw the line.”
Another provision would freeze the Fiscal Year 2024 budget to FY 2022 levels. Intending to balance the federal budget within 10 years, the move could lead to steep defense cuts since the FY 2022 budget included $782 billion in defense spending, while the FY 2023 budget raised that number to $858 billion, a part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill. However, some key Republicans, like incoming Appropriations Committee chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX), promise to oppose defense cuts.
“We don’t want to go back to sequestration. That would be very damaging to our military in a very dangerous world,” said incoming House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX).
“What we need to have conversations on is how that breaks down into defense and non-defense. Those still have to be had. I can tell you it won’t be on the backs of our troops,” added Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL)
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), the only Republican to vote against the rules package, cited the possibility of defense cuts to explain why he stood against it.
“When you have aggressive Russia and Ukraine, you’ve got a growing threat of China in the Pacific, you know, I’m going to visit Taiwan here in a couple of weeks, how am I going to look at our allies in the eye and say, I need you to increase your defense budget, but yet America is going to decrease ours,” he told Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”
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