On a Sunday evening conference call, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy outlined some of the concessions he has agreed to in his campaign for speaker, including making it easier to depose the speaker, according to multiple GOP sources on the call. McCarthy, however, could not say whether he would have the votes for speaker, despite caving to some of the right’s most fervent demands.
Later that evening, House Republicans unveiled their rules package for the 118th Congress, which formalises some of McCarthy’s concessions. The House only adopts its rules package after selecting a speaker, which McCarthy has not yet done, so additional compromises may be made in the coming days.
The California Republican made his case for the speakership in a “Dear Colleague” letter and made additional promises, including ensuring that ideological groups are better represented on committees.
Not long after Sunday’s call, a group of nine hardliners outlined their demands to McCarthy last month, and they issued a new letter saying some of the concessions he announced are insufficient and that they’re still not sold on him, though they did say progress is being made.
“Thus far, there have been no specific commitments with respect to virtually every component of our entreaties, and thus no way to measure whether promises are kept or broken,” the members wrote in the letter obtained by CNN.
This group is still pushing for a single lawmaker to have the authority to call for a vote to depose the speaker, as well as a commitment that leadership will not participate in primaries, among other things. McCarthy still has a lot of work to do before Tuesday because he can only afford to lose four votes on the House floor.
After weeks of negotiations, the California Republican told his members on Sunday’s call that he had agreed to a threshold as low as five people to trigger a vote on ousting the speaker at any given time, known as the “motion to vacate” the speaker’s chair, and pitched it as a “compromise.” Last week, CNN reported that he supported that threshold.
According to sources, some moderates pushed back and expressed their frustration during the call, fearing that the motion to vacate will be used as a constant cudgel over McCarthy’s head.
South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson expressed dissatisfaction with the low threshold McCarthy agreed to, but indicated he would swallow it if it helped McCarthy win the speakership. Other members made it clear that if McCarthy’s critics defeat his speakership bid, the negotiated rules package will be scrapped.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida pressed McCarthy on whether his concession on the motion to vacate will be enough to get him the 218 votes. However, he did not directly respond, despite McCarthy’s earlier statement on the call that people were “slowly” moving in the right direction.
However, later in the call, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of McCarthy’s five “hard no” votes, stated that despite all of the concessions, he would not support McCarthy.
Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida then asked McCarthy to respond to Diaz-question. Balart’s McCarthy’s response, according to sources, was that they only had a few days to close the deal, and it had to be done.
Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York asked Gaetz if he would support McCarthy if he agreed to lower the threshold for a motion to vacate to a single lawmaker, as it used to be before Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, changed the rules. McCarthy had refused to entertain that idea, according to Gaetz, but if he makes it now, he will consider it.
McCarthy said he disagreed with Gaetz’s assessment, claiming that the rest of the conference couldn’t support a threshold as low as one person. “It’s not about me,” the Republican from California said. He did, however, ask Gaetz if he could get to “yes” if McCarthy dropped to a one-person threshold, to which Gaetz remained non-committal and said if it was a genuine offer, he would consider it.
a set of house rules
Giving five Republicans the authority to call for a vote on deposing the sitting speaker; restoring the ability to zero out a government official’s salary; giving lawmakers 72 hours to read a bill before it comes to the floor; and creating a new select committee to investigate the “weaponization” of the Justice Department and the FBI.
The rules package makes no changes to the discharge petition process, which allows lawmakers to bypass leadership and force a bill to the floor if 218 lawmakers support it.
Other noteworthy provisions include the prohibition of remote hearings and markups, the elimination of staffer unionisation efforts, and the authorization of the House Ethics Committee to receive public ethics complaints.
The current Democratic chairman of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Jim McGovern, called the House GOP’s rules package a “major step backward for this institution.”
“Republican leaders have once again caved to the most extreme members of their own caucus,” the Massachusetts lawmaker said in a statement released on Sunday.
While the rules package has been billed as final, Republican sources have warned that nothing is final until it is passed.
Following the election of a speaker and the swearing-in of members, the House votes on the rules package, which governs how the chamber operates.