McCarthy’s five biggest rules concessions in bid to become speaker

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, speaks during his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30th, 2020.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, speaks during his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 30th, 2020. (Graeme Jennings/Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner)

McCarthy’s five biggest rules concessions in bid to become speaker

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As he struggles to lock down the votes for speaker, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has made key concessions in an effort to sway his defectors to support him during the Jan. 3 floor vote.

Here’s a look at the biggest changes to the rules that McCarthy shared with House Republicans on Sunday, though it still may not be enough to win support from his opponents.

Lowering threshold on motion to vacate the chair

McCarthy made a major concession in lowering the threshold on the motion to vacate the chair — a procedural tool used to oust a sitting speaker that was used by members of the House Freedom Caucus to pressure former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to step down. Under new rules, just five GOP members could force a vote on ousting the speaker — a compromise from just one member as hardliners wanted but lower than at least half the GOP conference that the House GOP conference initially adopted in November.

Multiple conservatives said the motion to vacate is their “red line” in backing him for the position, with hardliners asserting they believe the rule should be changed back to its original form of a single member holding power.

While McCarthy has caved to bring the number down to five, his defectors have argued that the move does not go far enough in order to hold the leader accountable for the promises made to the conference.

Moderate GOP lawmakers have slammed the change, arguing that lowering the threshold could be weaponized for leverage over key decisions due to the razor-thin majority.

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Fiscal changes with bringing back Holman Rule

Cuts to spending and bringing back a mechanism known as the “Holman Rule” to permit members to make targeted cuts to specific bureaucrats’ salaries were key components in conservatives’ demands in exchange for the support of the next speaker of the House.

The new rules package unveiled late Sunday evening requires the Congressional Budget Office to provide an analysis on bills’ impact on inflation and will reinstate the “three-fifths supermajority in the House to approve any increases in tax rates.”

A “cut-as-you-go,” or CUTGO, rule will be put back into place if the package passes, which requires spending increases to be offset by equal or greater cuts in mandatory spending and “eliminating the budget gimmicks caused by Democrat PAYGO.”

The Democrats’ “Gephardt Rule” would also be scrapped in an effort to block the lower chamber from automatically suspending the debt ceiling after passing a budget resolution.

New sub- and select committees/changes to committee process

The package calls for the creation of a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee.

A Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party would also be established, and modifications would be made to the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic to focus its investigation on the origins of the virus, gain-of-function research, and the impact it had on society.

Panels will be required to “establish oversight plans detailing how they will hold the Biden administration accountable.”

The House Committee on Education and Labor would also be renamed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The House Ethics Committee would see a new process put in place to receive complaints from the public, and a bipartisan task force would be directed to “conduct a comprehensive review of House ethics rules and regulation.”

The rules would also reinstate “Calendar Wednesday” — which permits committee chairs “to bring reported bills directly to the House floor for consideration under an open amendment process, and reform the process by ensuring the same 72-hour notice that is required on all other measures is provided.”

Reopening the Capitol and elimination of pandemic protocols

Pandemic-era changes put in place during the 117th Congress will largely go away, with remote committee work and proxy voting slated to be axed.

Republicans have long railed against proxy voting despite many members using the mechanism, with critics arguing that lawmakers should have to be present at work and not “phone it in.”

A return to two-minute votes is also set to make a comeback as Republicans take control, with the votes having been elongated to allow for social distancing during the height of the pandemic.

Fines for not complying with mask mandates will also be eliminated, and the magnetometers around the House chamber, which were put in place after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, will also be removed.

Eliminating staff labor unions

Democrats allowed congressional offices to unionize last year, with proponents arguing it was a step in the right direction for workers’ rights.

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But Republicans largely slammed the move, arguing that the change could lead to unintended consequences. With the GOP set to take over, the new rules package vows to eliminate “staff labor unions so that Congressional staff are accountable to the elected officials they serve.”

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