The House has a narrow (currently a 220-213 Republican majority that should be finalized at 222-213), and this slim majority has given the Republicans a unique opportunity to beclown themselves and sow doubt as to their ability to organize something as simple as a two-car funeral.
The problem facing the new House majority is the same one that confronted Nancy Pelosi in the outgoing Congress. It takes 218 votes to pass a bill. If five Republicans defect, the bill goes nowhere unless the GOP starts corralling Democrat votes. Passing a bill with opposing party votes because you can’t get your own members to fall in line is not a good look.
To do what needs to be done, the GOP needs a Speaker who is respected or at least feared, on both sides of the aisle. So naturally, Kevin McCarthy was the guy they chose. McCarthy was challenged for the position by Arizona Representative Andy Biggs, and McCarthy won handily by a vote of 188-31.
Oddly enough, in this current environment, a guy like McCarthy might not be the worst choice because he can probably get 218 GOP votes on most things, and he has enough rapport with the half-dozen sane Democrats remaining in the House that he might be able to pull off the illusion of bipartisanship on the odd occasion.
But to get the Speaker’s gavel, McCarthy not only needed a majority of his caucus, but he also needs a majority in the House. That’s where his problem comes in.
The House Freedom Caucus is attempting to trade its support for a guarantee by McCarthy that he will adopt a package of rule changes that will take power from a handful of members close to McCarthy and allow more representatives to participate. For instance, they want the committees to elect their own chairmen rather than having the Speaker appoint them.
- Enact a “majority of the majority” rule that legislation passed in a Republican House should be supported by a majority of House Republicans to prevent leadership from cutting deals with Democrats if a bill is not supported by conservatives
- Restore independence of committees by electing committee chairs based on qualifications and effectiveness
- Diversify the Steering Committee so that all House Republicans can have input on committee assignments
- Open the legislative process to allow for amendments. Members have not been allowed to vote on an amendment on the House floor since May 2016, and the Republican 115th Congress, under then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), broke the record for the most bills being considered without amendments
- Ensure fiscal responsibility by blocking consideration of any other bill until the House can pass an appropriations bill by August 1. If the House has not acted by September 10, then the Speaker should be prevented from recessing or adjourning until it has passed a spending bill
From what I’ve read, the second, third, and sixth items have been pronounced dead-on-arrival by McCarthy.
At least five House Republicans — Andy Biggs (AZ), Matt Gaetz (FL), Bob Good (VA), Ralph Norman (SC), Matt Rosendale (MT), and Chip Roy (TX) — have said they will not vote for McCarthy (see Mike Miller’sfor details on that).
Just when you think that things are pretty bad, along comes the Republican Main Street Partnership with a mighty shout of Leeroy Jenkins!
Don Bacon (NE) says that his group will work with Democrats to get an “agreeable Republican” if the Freedom Caucus doesn’t vote for McCarthy. The result, he says, will be a lot less of a conservative warrior than McCarthy.
Rep. Bacon message to HFC: “We’re going to do vote after vote … for Kevin and if they refuse to play ball—that’s why I’m saying we’re willing to work across the aisle to get an agreeable Republican—but we’re not going to get pushed around”
Says back up won’t be who HFC wants
— Jordain Carney (@jordainc) November 30, 2022
If six members of the House GOP vote for Hakeem Jeffries, we could have a House with a GOP majority but with a Democrat Speaker controlling legislation and appointments. Best casing it, we could end up with a raging RINO elected on a wave of Democrat votes.
For all the ink being spilled about the “danger” that McCarthy is in, no one, at least on our side, is paying attention to the damage this nonsense is doing to the GOP brand. With a House barely under GOP control and a Senate run by the Democrats, the next two years will not be a Golden Age of conservative legislation. I’m not sure that the Freedom Caucus going to the mat on this based on the theory that McCarthy would cave because he needed the votes was the best move. In fact, I really have to question how people who have worked around McCarthy this long could have been caught flat-footed by his refusal to budge. A Speaker elected with a few Democrat votes would be a crushing defeat to the GOP. If a Democrat is elected Speaker, they lose the right to be a political party.
Unless the game is to embarrass McCarthy by requiring multiple ballots for Speaker, I’m really not sure what the end game is or why we voted for these guys.