It took 15 ballots and the full first week of the 118th Congress to finally elect GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Speaker of the House, but crossing the finish line doesn't mean the new speaker's work opening the new Congress is close to being done.
The negotiations that took place on the margins of the public House floor spats between Republicans included several provisions that were worked into the House rules package — the document adopted at the beginning of each Congress that sets the ground rules for how the lower chamber will function for the next two years.
So what did the holdout Republicans get for their days-long resistance to continuing business as usual in the House?
One of the biggest concessions is a rule "to allow any member to offer a privileged resolution declaring the Office of Speaker vacant," meaning any one member of the House can call a vote to remove Speaker McCarthy from his position.
Another change in the rules "replaces current 'pay-as-you-go' requirements to reduce federal spending with 'cut-as-you-go' requirements" through a provision to cap spending at 2022 levels that "prohibits consideration of a bill, joint resolution, conference report, or amendment that has the net effect of increasing mandatory spending within a five-year or ten-year budget window."
The negotiated rules package includes an order of business providing for "consideration of a bill to provide for the development of a plan to increase oil and gas production under oil and gas leases of Federal lands."
In addition, the rules package provides for bills:
- to rescind certain balances made available to the Internal Revenue Service
- to authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend the entry of aliens
- to prohibit the Secretary of Energy from sending petroleum products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China
- to amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act to direct district attorney and prosecutors offices to report to the Attorney General
- to require the national instant criminal background check system to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the relevant State and local law enforcement agencies whenever the information available to the system indicates that a person illegally or unlawfully in the United States may be attempting to receive a firearm
- to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions
- to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.
What's more, rather than the bloated omnibus bill process — that most recently saw $1.7 trillion spent in a 4,155-page piece of legislation without time for members to read the full text — the proposed rules provide for "separate consideration of seven bills under a closed rule with one hour of debate equally divided" between Republicans and Democrats. For all bills, the proposed rules package includes a "72-hour notice requirement prior to consideration of legislation" to give representatives more time to review bills before having to vote on them.
The proposed rules also bring back the "Holman Rule" which "allows amendments to appropriations legislation that would reduce the salary of or fire specific federal employees, or cut a specific program."
In the negotiated rules package, resolutions are included to establish a Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, plus a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government as a select investigative subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee and a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic under the the Committee on Oversight and Accountability.
There's a lot in the new rules package (outlined in full here), most of it necessary in order to secure support for McCarthy's election as Speaker of the House — but there are already some Republicans who aren't all-in on the the proposed rules.
On Face The Nation this week, Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas said he's a "no" on adopting the House rules, citing the reduction in defense spending:
Texas GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales says one of the reasons he will vote against the proposed House rules package is due to the defense spending cut, which he says is "a horrible idea." But, Gonzales goes on to say, "I'm not whipping other members to vote against it." pic.twitter.com/ipGhhAbn9C— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 8, 2023
GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, as of Sunday, was still "on the fence" as to how she'd vote on the House rules:
The House will reconvene on Monday evening and is expected to move onto voting on the House rules so that committees and other functions of the lower chamber can begin one week after the first day of the 118th Congress. McCarthy faces another tight vote that will again require the moderate wing of the House GOP Conference to agree on the same matter as the more conservative members.
With the slim Republican majority, a small group of opponents can successfully derail most legislation if Democrats are unwilling to help McCarthy — much as was seen last week as a few holdouts forced 15 votes before finally relenting to allow a speaker to be elected.