Five concessions McCarthy made to become House speaker
Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, DC shares his perspective on US politics:
What did Kevin McCarthy have to promise to become the Speaker of the House?
Now Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy survived a modern record of 15 votes to become speaker of the House earlier this week. He had to make some compromises to get there. Here are the top five changes to House rules that Kevin McCarthy agreed to in order to win the speakership.
Number one, a return of the motion to vacate the chair. Probably the biggest concession given by McCarthy was lowering the threshold for any individual member to bring a motion that would force a vote on a speakership. Under Pelosi, this would've required half majority. McCarthy wanted it to require five people, but conservatives insisted that it be done with only one person, allowing any individual member to set up a vote at any time on McCarthy's fate, potentially setting up another painful week of votes later this year if they decide to take him out.
Number two, no new taxes. It wasn't really necessary to put this in the rules since there's almost no chance Republicans are going to raise taxes, but they restored a rule that would've required a three-fifths house majority in order to raise tax rates this year. This gives them some flexibility to do what's called base broadening or closing loopholes, but I would be shocked to see that too. Don't expect any new spending bills or any big tax bills moved in this Congress.
Number three, more transparency. A big complaint for rank-and-file members is that they have no say in what bills get to the floor and very little say in what gets in them. A new rule would require a 72-hour holdover period before a vote, mandate single subject bills to prevent so-called Christmas trees where a lot of things get jammed into a bill at the last minute and give rank and file members and particularly conservatives who now have seats in the rules committee, more say in what bills get to the floor and guarantee amendment votes. We'll see how well this process holds up later this year when Democrats want Republicans to take politically challenging votes and members have to pass complicated must pass bills to deliver for their constituents.
Number four, bring back the Holman rule. This rule allows Congress to amend spending bills to cut specific programs or reduce the salaries of specific federal government employees. This idea was set to be weaponized against Biden health advisor, Anthony Fauci, but he retired, but it could be used against specific employees Republicans think are not doing their job, say, guarding the border. But it would have to become law first, which brings up a huge problem for much of the Republican agenda, the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats who are not going to agree to anything that Republicans want to do this year.
And finally, number five, big cuts in discretionary spending. This measure wasn't actually written into the rules, but was part of a rumored side agreement with specific members to cut discretionary spending levels back to the levels they were at last year in FY22. The parts of the federal government that Congress controls annually have grown about nearly 30% since the beginning of the pandemic and conservatives want to see cuts to the budget. The only problem is that some of that spending, particularly on defense, is broadly supported by a huge swath of Republicans. And to achieve the cuts they have in mind, which would include balancing the budget within 10 years, there would have to be cuts as big as 10% to the defense budget and then trillions of dollars taken out of federal health programs and social support budget.
None of this is going to happen, but conservatives have set up very high hopes for the year, and if they are disappointed, they have the ability to make sure that Kevin McCarthy's speakership, which he worked so hard to get, does not last that long.
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