House Republicans Pass New Rules Package

After a historical 15 rounds of voting and conceding to the House’s right-wing hardliners, newly-elected House Speaker McCarthy and his allies managed to secure enough votes to pass a new rules package for the 118th Congress on Monday. 

The rules were approved on a 220-213 mostly party-line vote. One Republican, Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, joined all 212 Democrats in voting against the measure for its cuts in defense spending. 

“I’m against the rules for a couple different reasons. One is the cut in defense spending, I think that’s an absolutely terrible idea, the other is the vacate the chair. I mean I don’t want to see us every two months be in lockdown,” Gonzalez said on Fox News.

The vote was shaping up to be a fraught one amid concerns from centrist House Republicans’ frustrations over McCarthy’s concessions to hardliners like Marjorie Taylor Green. The newly approved legislation, which will govern House procedures for the next two years and largely targets domestic spending, includes key concessions that hardliners sought such as allowing a single lawmaker to call for the Speaker’s removal at any time. Other changes would place new restrictions on federal spending, giving the hardliners direct leverage over McCarthy’s ability to negotiate government funding packages with President Biden and the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The package has been denounced by Democrats as being “for MAGA extremists” who favor wealthy corporations over workers and seek to undermine Congressional ethics standards. Democrats have also noted that the legislation does not reveal the extent of McCarthy’s concessions. 

“These rules are not a serious attempt at governing. They’re essentially a ransom note to America from the extreme right,” Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern said about the package.

But for those Republicans, the new package is meant to empower individual lawmakers to have greater sway in legislation and advance the party’s goal of limited spending.

“It reflects Republican priorities and the priorities of the voters who elected us,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and the chairman of the Rules Committee.

Some of the other major inclusions in the rules package include the Republicans’ gutting of the Democrats’ PAYGO–“pay-as-you-go”–rule, which required legislation that would add to the deficit to be offset with increased taxes or spending cuts. In place of PAYGO is now what the Republicans are calling CUTGO, which requires mandatory spending increases to be offset only by equal or greater decreases in spending with no new taxes allowed.

House Republicans have also doubled down on their aversion to tax rate increases, including a rule that would require a three-fifths supermajority of Republican votes to pass any; this signals a potential future hurdle in McCarthy’s leadership over an already slim Republican majority. Additionally, the 19th-century “Holman Rule” has been revived, which allows Congress to amend spending bills with the specific intent of salary reductions, employee termination, or cutting a single program. 

Among the other changes to the ruleset are a 72-hour waiting period between when a bill is introduced and when it can get a vote, a cap on government spending at 2022 levels, and the creation of a specialized committee to “investigate” the Justice Department.

While the bill passed along party lines in the House, it is unlikely to survive in the Democrat-controlled Senate. 

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