Kevin McCarthy: What did the US House Speaker give up and at what cost?
- Anton Zuricher
- BBC North American Correspondent
It took 15 rounds of voting, a midnight vote and nearly fistfights in both houses of Congress before Kevin McCarthy was finally elected Speaker of the House.
Amid a mixture of flattery, arm-twisting and finger-pointing, the California congressman convinced enough of the 20 reticent Republicans to support him — or at least not to be outright opposed to his candidacy as a public speaker.
But winning the votes of these rebellious Republicans was no easy task. McCarthy had to make big promises and concessions that would limit his power and increase Conservative influence in the House of Representatives. So what concessions did he make and what was the price?
Selection of individual members
One of the main demands of the reticent Republicans was the possibility that only a legislature could vote on whether or not to impeach the speaker of the House of Representatives.
This “evacuation move” could lead to another round of voting in the House of Representatives, just like we saw last week, which is to have a sword on the back of his neck every moment he makes a decision.
Cost: The eviction request is a rule with a long history in Congress, but the number of people required to pass it has been increased to five in recent years to prevent a single member of Congress from sacrificing the speaker’s authority threatened.
While the naysayers vowed not to abuse the privilege if it were restored, McCarthy’s rise to power would be more stable as things stand.
There is no easy way the tongue legislation
Students who have studied American civics (the rights and responsibilities of citizenship) and fans of the old children’s TV series Schoolhouse Rock probably remember being taught how to introduce bills in the House of Representatives.
It is introduced by a legislature, then a committee is appointed to consider and review it, then it is submitted to Congress and amended again to vote yes or no.
But most things aren’t like that these days: big spending projects are negotiated behind closed doors and then passed without discussion within a short period of time.
McCarthy vowed to make passed bills much like the old days, with members of Congress outside of top leadership having more say in how bills are proposed, amended and passed.
the costs: The reason regular order is mostly over is because legislation – especially with the recent partisan divisions – is a difficult thing. Drafting new legislation is a daunting task, and the process can easily be thwarted by a handful of politicians with plans. While a return to the traditional rules of the game is a noble cause, it will be difficult for McCarthy to live up to it.
Conservatives can be the ones who make the rules
As the name suggests, the Board Rules Committee essentially sets the rules of the game in the boardroom.
The committee determines when a bill will be voted on, how long it will be debated, how it can be changed through on-the-spot amendments, or whether it can be changed at all. McCarthy ensured that the ultraconservatives got at least one seat in this powerful group.
the costsA seat at the table puts you in the game, and with more representation on the Rules Committee, Conservatives can craft the kind of legislation the House will pass before it’s fully formulated — and weed out unwanted proposals before they even see the light of day .
reject supporters positions the mission
Many non-supporters are turning their attention to positions on influential House committees.
For example, Andy Harris of Maryland has expressed interest in chairing the Health Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls billions of dollars in government spending.
Harris switched his support in favor of McCarthy on Friday afternoon. Though McCarthy has made no public promises, lawmakers will be watching closely what he does and whether Republicans are rewarded for his stubbornness and refusal.
the costsGiving someone the position of committee chair because they refuse is removing a staunch McCarthy supporter who should be next in line.
And McCarthy could make some enemies in his camp if he overpromises his former adversaries.
A common complaint among hardline conservatives has been that federal spending has risen to unsustainable levels.
During the oratory, they asked McCarthy to commit to specific budgetary constraints, such as: These include cutting spending to 2022 levels, requiring that any increases in government-issued debt be tied to corresponding budget cuts, and removing individual spending lines from major legislation by a vote in the House of Representatives.
the costsWith a majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans will be able to pass any budget they agree on.
McCarthy stands by those who are too focused on keeping government budgets in check in these debates within the party – something that has already angered some conservatives who fear massive cuts in defense spending. Ultimately, however, House Republicans must negotiate with Senate Democrats to pass spending legislation.
And McCarthy’s commitments here may give him less leeway to achieve the kind of compromises needed to avoid a government shutdown later this year.
Prioritize their problems
The issue of term limits in Congress and border security has been a common topic of conversation among Republicans. McCarthy reportedly promised a vote on both earlier this year.
The price: The House of Representatives would certainly have been quick to embrace immigration regardless of what the holdouts wanted, given that tighter border security and immigration policies have been a focus of the Republican agenda since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign began in 2015.
As for the limited presidential terms, such a reform may require a constitutional amendment to put it into effect.
The Supreme Court has already ruled that the state’s attempts to limit the term of office of congressmen are unconstitutional.
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