Republican deadlock leads to conservative concessions
The Concordia Courier
By Eva Prewitt | 1/20/2023
In the early morning hours of Jan. 7, after days of negotiations and 15 roll call votes, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) became the latest speaker of the House of Representatives, after facing down significant opposition from a group of the lower chamber’s most conservative members, many of whom belonged to the House Freedom Caucus.
In order to obtain victory, McCarthy was pressed to grant certain concessions to the group, which include placing House Freedom Caucus members on key committees, changes to how the House is run, and the creation of a committee which will conduct a major investigation into the FBI.
“I feel like the American people won. I feel that the House of Representatives will be a healthier institution,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a staunch member of the opposition to McCarthy told the New York Post after McCarthy was granted the speakership, adding, “Many of these things had been resisted by Kevin McCarthy as early as Monday and now we have an exquisite rules package.”
While McCarthy’s opponents were accused of grandstanding, they ended up garnering significant victories for conservatives in the House, as the Speaker was forced to give in to most of their demands. Freedom Caucus Chairman, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said on Twitter that the “juice was worth the squeeze.”
Perry and other members of the opposition posted lists of concessions they had gained from McCarthy to earn their vote. Among these were a budget which does not allow the debt ceiling to increase, an end to all COVID mandates and funding, a term limit vote, single subject bills, a vote on a border security plan, and the allowance of at least 72 hours given for members to read bills.
In addition, any member will be allowed to introduce a motion to vacate the chair, meaning that members can demand a vote to remove the speaker from the position. Another concession would create an open amendment process to bills, making it easier for lawmakers to change bills during debate.
“Any power that limits the speaker’s power is a step in the right direction,” one Freedom Caucus staffer told the New York Post. “The Freedom Caucus is more relevant than ever, and McCarthy won’t be able to get anything done without our endorsement and support.”
Freedom Caucus members were later placed on multiple important committees, with Rep. Dan Green (R-TN) beating out Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) for the chairmanship of the Homeland Security panel, a huge win for the hardline conservative group. Members of the Caucus will also be reportedly placed on the Rules Committee and the Appropriations Committee, both of which are crucial to the operation of the House and how funding is allocated.
McCarthy also would later remove three Democrat Representatives from their respective committees, an act he had promised to do as early as November of 2021. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) were booted from the House Intelligence Committee, while Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The three Democrats had been previously mentioned by McCarthy, who had promised to remove them specifically for a number of reasons, including Swalwell’s rumored relationship with an alleged Chinese spy, and Omar’s reported antisemitic views.
In 2021, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) removed Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from their respective committees, after a series of controversies around them. It was at that time that McCarthy first promised to remove “at least three,” Democrats from their committees, if Republicans flipped the House in 2022.
Schiff responded to the news of his removal, claiming that McCarthy was acting as Greene’s puppet, adding that he was a “very weak leader.”
“He will adhere to the wishes of the lowest common denominator,” Schiff told ABC. “And if that lowest common denominator wants to remove people from committees, that’s what they’ll do,” Schiff said, adding, “It’s going to be chaos with Republican leadership.”
McCarthy also promised that a Church-style committee will be formed to investigate politicization in the FBI. The Church Committee investigated CIA abuses in the 1970s, which led to the exposure of things like the infamous MKULTRA program.
“With the rules agreement we negotiated, we will have a powerful Church-style committee to go after the weaponization of the federal government – the FBI, DOJ, DHS, and all the rest,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) on Twitter. “This is a victory for the Constitutional rights of all Americans.”
The rules package was passed on Monday, Jan. 9, with only one GOP member, Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, voting against it.
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