House Republicans pass rules package after Speakers fight


House Republicans on Monday passed a set of rules that will govern how the chamber operates for the next two years in a closely watched vote that followed last week’s protracted battle of speakers.

The vote marked the first legislative campaign for newly elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his Republicans’ conference in the House of Representatives.

The package passed by a majority of 220 to 213 along party lines.

The terms of the package were the focus of behind-closed-door negotiations between McCarthy allies and critics last week. McCarthy had to give up a number of concessions to the rules to win some of his GOP holdouts and get him across the finish line.

He eventually won the speakership on the 15th ballot after four days of voting.

The trial left questions about whether the provisions McCarthy agreed to would deter moderate Republicans, and some have expressed concerns in recent days. But ultimately Rep. Tony Gonzales (Texas) was the only Republican to defy the resolution and keep the vow he made Friday.

The most controversial provision in the resolution is a single member’s motion to vacate the presidency, which allows a legislature to force a vote to remove the speaker.

The package agreed by House Republicans in November required a majority of the Republican conference to agree to invoke the motion to vacate the presidency, but McCarthy reduced that to five members on New Year’s Day at the urging of conservative lawmakers.

That change wasn’t enough for right-wing members, however, who called for the threshold to be lowered to one member – where it was set for years before Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) changed the threshold to a majority of a party, when she took the speaker’s gavel in 2019.

McCarthy eventually gave in to the request, handing his conservative holdouts a significant win. The change in the threshold for the eviction request is the only difference between the package released by Republicans on Jan. 1 and the one that hit the ground Monday.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), a McCarthy objector who reversed his vote on the 14th ballot, welcomed a single Member’s request to vacate the House during the debate.

“Of the many victories we have won for the American people, Thomas Jefferson’s motion to vacate the chair is the most important to me because it holds the Speaker accountable to the people,” he said.

“By restoring this historic rule, each individual member has the power to hold the speaker accountable for following all rules,” he added.

The rule package also reintroduces the Holman Rule, which gives members the ability to propose budget bill changes that would reduce the salaries of certain federal employees or the funding of certain programs to $1, essentially defunding them.

Democrats scrapped the ordinance in 2019 when they took control of the House of Representatives, but Republicans are now bringing it back.

The new rule package also directs the Congressional Budget Office to consider the inflationary implications of the legislation in addition to the budgetary implications — an issue Republicans have repeatedly raised as inflation soared in 2022.

“PAYGO,” the “pay-as-you-go” rule that dictates that legislation that would increase mandatory spending must be balanced with spending incentives or revenue increases, is replaced by “CUTGO,” a “cut-as-you-go” you-go,” replaces “variation first introduced by Republicans in 2011 and requiring increases to be balanced with equal or greater mandatory spending cuts. Both parties have frequently waived the rule to pass legislation in the past.

In addition, the new rules package eliminates proxy voting, which was introduced in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic to allow members to vote remotely.

Some GOP unease about the resolution arose from the fact that it was informally bound by agreements made between McCarthy and those who opposed him as spokesman, which were not included in the rules package itself.

These measures included a promise to vote on a term-limit bill and a commitment to place two or three hardline Conservative members on the House Rules Committee, the body that oversees all legislation that gets a say.

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Democrats also expressed concern about the informal understandings between McCarthy’s allies and his critics. Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) – who called the rules package “flawed” – said he didn’t know what was in the terms.

“What worries me is not just what is written here, I am concerned about the backroom deals Speaker McCarthy made with the Freedom Caucus in exchange for their votes. As Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace said just this weekend, and I quote, “We have no idea what promises were made,” McGovern said. “It’s ruthless, we’ve only been in it a week and that’s how they run this place.”

“Is that what the majority leader meant when he spoke of a new day of transparency? These rules are not a serious attempt at government, they are essentially a ransom demand on America from the far right,” he added.

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