House passes set of rules for Congress in McCarthy’s first test as House Speaker

House passes set of rules for Congress in McCarthy’s first test as House Speaker

House passes set of rules for Congress in McCarthy’s first test as House Speaker

Electing the Speaker of the House was perhaps the easiest part. Now House Republicans will attempt to govern.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) passed his first test Monday night as Republicans approved their set of rules to govern House operations, usually a routine first-day step that stretched into the second week of the new majority. It was approved 220 to 213 on a party-line vote with one opposing Republican.

Then, House Republicans will try later Monday to pass their first bill, legislation to cut funding that is supposed to bolster the Internal Revenue Service. The bill hit a snag before votes because the budget office announced that instead of saving money, it would add $114 billion to the federal deficit.

It’s the start of a new era, with House Republicans teetering from deadlock to deadlock, which shows the challenges McCarthy has in leading a rebel majority as well as the limits of the remaining agenda of the President Biden on Capitol Hill.

With exorbitant ambitions for a far-right conservative agenda and a weak grip on the majority allowing a few resisters to shut down debate, Republicans are racing headlong into an uncertain and unstable start to the new session. They want to investigate Biden, cut federal spending, and increase competition with China.

But McCarthy, backed by former President Trump, must first show that the Republican majority can keep up with the basics of government.

“You know, it’s a little tougher when you get into a majority and maybe the margins aren’t high,” McCarthy said after winning the president’s vote. “Having the disruption now has really built trust with each other and learned how to work together.”

As McCarthy opened the House as the new president on Monday, Republicans launched a debate over the rules package, a hard-fought 55-page document that McCarthy negotiated with conservatives to win their votes and make him president of bedroom.

At the heart of the package is a provision that the conservative Freedom Caucus group wanted that reinstates a long-standing rule allowing any lawmaker to introduce a motion to “vacate the chair” — a vote to oust the president. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi scrapped the rule when Democrats took office in 2019 because conservatives saw it as a threat over former Republican speakers.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) said the rules are about “going back to basics.”

But that’s not the only change. There are other provisions that conservatives have taken from McCarthy that weaken the power of the president’s office and give more control over legislative affairs to rank-and-file lawmakers, especially far-right lawmakers who have won concessions.

Republicans are allowing more Freedom Caucus lawmakers to sit on the rules committee that shapes legislative debates. These members promise more open and fluid debates and insist on 72 hours to read the legislation before the votes.

But it’s open debate whether the changes will make the House more transparent in its operations or shut it down, as happened last week when McCarthy fought for four days and 14 failed ballots before finally win the President’s gavel.

Many Republicans defended the impasse over the speaker’s gavel, which was finally resolved after midnight Saturday morning on the narrowest vote – one of the longest speaker’s race showdowns in the history of the United States.

“A little temporary conflict is needed in this town in order to keep this town from rolling over the American people,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said over the weekend on CNN.

On Monday, Roy praised the new rules, saying he could table a motion “right now” to demand a vote on the president – as has been the case in much of the history of the Room.

But ahead of Monday night’s vote on the rules package, at least two other Republicans raised objections to the backroom deals McCarthy had made, making it unclear whether there would be enough GOP support for him. passage, because all democrats should oppose it. In the end, only Republican Representative Tony Gonzales of Texas voted against.

Democrats have denounced the new rules as caving in to far-right demands aligned with Trump’s Make American Great Again agenda.

“These rules are not a serious attempt to govern,” said Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the rules committee. Rather, it is, he said, a “far-right ransom note”.

Rep. Ritchie Torres, DN.Y., focused his criticism on the GOP’s so-called Holman rule, which would allow Congress to override the pay of individual federal employees: “That’s no way to govern.”

McCarthy commands a slim Republican majority of 222 seats, meaning that for any given vote, he can only lose four GOP critics or the legislation will fail, if all Democrats oppose.

The new rules make McCarthy’s job even more difficult. For example, Republicans are scrapping proxy voting that Democrats under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means McCarthy must demand greater attendance and participation at every vote with almost no absences allowed for family emergencies or other circumstances.

“Members of Congress need to show up and get to work again,” said Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La.

With the Senate still tightly held by Democrats, the divided Congress could still be a time for bipartisan bargaining. On Monday, a group of Republican and Democratic senators headed for the United States’ southern border with Mexico as they tried to develop an immigration overhaul to curb the flow of migrants.

But more often than not, a divided Congress produces traffic jams.

Republicans have been here before, just over a decade ago, when the tea class came of age in 2011, ousting Pelosi from the president’s office and rushing into an era of tough politics that shut down government and threatened a federal debt default. .

McCarthy has been a key player in those battles, having recruited the Tea Party class when he was House GOP campaign chairman. He unsuccessfully tried to succeed Republican John Boehner in 2015 when the embattled House speaker abruptly retired rather than face a potential vote from conservatives when ousted.


Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Hope Yen contributed to this report.

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