Kevin McCarthy has reportedly traded his arrogance and entitlement for a bit of humility. After a chaotic couple of days of failed votes to make him the Speaker of the House, Politico has reported that major concessions have been made.
That should get his vote total moving in the right direction, undercutting the prior momentum from the anti-McCarthy holdouts. Here’s what those concessions look like.
- A one-member “motion to vacate”: The GOP leader appears to have finally acquiesced to a demand to lower the threshold needed to force a vote ousting a speaker to just one member. While McCarthy originally indicated that restoring the one-member “motion to vacate” was a red line, his allies now argue that there’s not a huge practical difference between this and his previous offer of requiring five members to trigger the vote.
- Rules Committee seats for the Freedom Caucus: McCarthy is prepared to give the House Freedom Caucus two seats on the powerful House Rules Committee, which oversees the amendment process for the floor. (Some conservatives are still holding out for four seats on the panel.) There are also talks about giving a third seat to a conservative close to the Freedom Caucus but not in it — someone like Reps. THOMAS MASSIE (R-Ky.). Who will pick those members? We’re told there is ongoing haggling. Typically, it’s the speaker’s prerogative, but conservatives want to choose their own members for these jobs.
- A vote on term limits: This is a key demand of Rep. RALPH NORMAN (R-S.C.), who has proposed a constitutional amendment limiting lawmakers to three terms in the House.
- Major changes to the appropriations process: Fears of another trillion-plus-dollar omnibus spending bill have been a major driver of the conservative backlash to McCarthy. The brewing deal includes a promise for standalone votes on each of the 12 yearly appropriations bills, which would be considered under what is known as an “open rule,” allowing floor amendments to be offered by any lawmaker. Conservatives also won a concession to carve out any earmarks included in those packages for separate votes, though it’s unclear if they’d be voted on as one package or separately.
These aren’t small potatoes. Getting the Freedom Caucus onto the rules committee has been a long-time goal and one that could pay dividends in keeping McCarthy in line. Thomas Massie also getting a seat would be huge given he’s perhaps the best Republican in the House regarding government spending, and much of the gamesmanship with rules has to do with spending.
The other big thing here is the changes to the appropriations process. Massive omnibus bills, pioneered by Mitch McConnell, have become the norm, and that’s a terrible way to run a government. Promising stand-alone votes and the allowance of amendments is a big step back toward normal order.
Most importantly, the one-vote motion to vacate puts McCarthy on the hot seat and is another valuable way to keep him from breaking his promises. He’s not going to want another pro-longed fight for Speaker in the middle of his term, especially if those who start it can no longer trust him. As to the vote on term limits, it’s just a meaningless gesture that will fail, but it’s what Ralph Norman wants. Certainly, it can’t hurt to get the House on record.
Will all this be enough to get McCarthy within striking distance again? We’ll find out shortly. It does still appear that there are enough holdouts to make things interesting a bit longer. Even more concessions are probably coming.