Republican House of Representatives approved on Monday News Rules for the Chamber for the next two years in the first major legislative action following the chaotic and historic process of electing Kevin McCarthy as speaker.
McCarthy, R-Calif., had offered several concessions to his GOP critics, including rule changes to garner the necessary support for the Speaker’s gavel — though the deal angered some centrists in the party.
The new rules mark a sharp change in procedure on Capitol Hill, where Democrats have been in control for two years. The new rules also underscore what will likely be a time of tension with the Democratic Senate and the Biden White House over issues such as spending.
The minutes also reflect that McCarthy relinquished some power as Speaker to his rank and file members.
Application for vacating the chair
One of the key changes McCarthy agreed to was lowering the threshold required to trigger a vote on any speaker’s boats, including himself.
Prior to 2019, when then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took control, any member could trigger a vote on what was known as the motion to vacate the presidency. Under Pelosi, such a vote could only be triggered if a majority of either party supported it.
To win over some dissenters, McCarthy proposed lowering the threshold back to five MPs. But eventually he agreed to one.
Though the motion was never successfully deployed, the threat of doing so helped push two recent speakers — John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Paul Ryan, R-Wis. – to retire.
During negotiations for the speakership, McCarthy also pledged that he would use the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations to force the Biden administration to make spending cuts — a tactic the White House has used amid outcry from the GOP that they are being tough-minded. quickly rejected.
In addition, the new rules package no longer requires the House of Representatives to automatically increase the credit limit through a budgetary act enacted by borrowing in excess of that limit.
The budget ceiling should be reached sometime in the summer.
Increased changes to expense accounts
Another change in the new rules allows each lawmaker to offer changes to expense accounts.
Supporters of the move say it aims to increase transparency in some of the government’s broadest legislation — shortly after the passage of a $1.7 trillion spending bill late last year that was negotiated mostly behind closed doors.
However, the change could also lead to an increased deadlock on legislation fundamental to keeping government – from social programs to the military – running. Critics say the new amendment process could lead to a version of Senate filibuster, in which a single lawmaker uses procedures to delay legislation.
The House has 435 Members, each of whom can speak on the floor for 10 minutes to table their spending changes, meaning there could theoretically be more than three consecutive days with only changes being tabled – if lawmakers weren’t to adopt any breaks.
Changing the change rule “makes it messy. It makes it time-consuming,” conceded Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, on CNN on Sunday. “But it makes members feel like they actually have a voice.”
New spending must be offset by cuts
The rules package reflects Republicans’ fiscal focus and also requires that any new spending the chamber passes must be offset by cuts, though it doesn’t specifically say where those cuts would have to come from.
However, the GOP has long targeted entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid.
defense spending cuts
Defense spending has become a key sticking point for some Republican centrists, with more traditional hawks struggling with future caps.
The language in the package aims to limit federal government discretionary spending to 2022 levels for the next 10 years – which, if enacted and applied to defense programs, would result in a reduction of about 10%.
While some Republicans, more aligned with former President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, advocate a smaller international presence and argue that the Pentagon’s budget is bloated, other conservatives have said it creates national security risks.
The new rules include language regarding the formation of a House Judiciary subcommittee to investigate “arming the federal government.”
The panel will have the opportunity to review how the federal government collects and analyzes information about Americans and to examine any ongoing criminal investigations. By bolstering the committee’s powers, it will also gain access to highly classified information normally only shared with the House Intelligence Committee.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, will chair the group and is also expected to chair the larger Judiciary Committee.
“We have more resources, more specificity, and more power to act against this recalcitrant Biden administration,” R-Texas Rep. Chip Roy told Fox News on Friday after hearing McCarthy’s concessions to the panel and its jurisdiction had received.
Among other things, the committee will be able to examine the Justice Department’s investigation into last year’s attack on the Capitol, which bogged down some lawmakers.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., whose phone was confiscated by the FBI last year as part of the investigation, did not commit to stepping down from the subcommittee this weekend and denied that doing so would pose a conflict of interest.
“Why should I be restricted? Why would anyone be restricted just because someone made an allegation? Everyone in America is innocent until proven otherwise,” Perry told ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
The new protocols include what is known as the Holman Rule, which allows lawmakers to propose changes to spending laws that would cut funding for certain programs to $1, essentially defunding them.
The move comes as Republicans target ongoing investigations into the January 6 riot and Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
As with the other spending changes, a push to defund this effort is unlikely to get through the Democrat-controlled Senate and be signed into law by President Joe Biden. But it could be used as a bargaining tool for Republicans with must-pass legislation.
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