WASHINGTON — House Republicans approved a sweeping rules package Monday that includes many of the provisions sought by right-wing lawmakers in exchange for their support of Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker.
The new package for the 118th session of Congress was approved in a nearly party-line vote, with 220 Republicans backing its passage and 212 Democrats and one Republican voting against it. The package, which lays out how the lower chamber will conduct its business for the next two years, contains key provisions that McCarthy negotiated with far-right members of his party in order to win the speaker’s gavel — including making it easier for those same lawmakers to seek to remove him from power.
“The whole point is that we’re trying to continue the great history of the people’s house,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who led the 20 or so holdouts in their opposition to McCarthy.
According to the new rules, it will now only take one lawmaker to propose removing the speaker from power, instead of five. The package also puts an end to pandemic era voting by proxy, which had allowed members to cast votes without being in Washington. It creates a special committee to investigate the “weaponization” of federal law enforcement, a common complaint from conservatives about the Department of Justice, which has prosecuted supporters of former President Donald Trump for their involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, and launched an investigation of Trump himself. The new rules also require that all pending legislation must be posted 72 hours before voting begins to allow the public (and lawmakers) time to review it.
“This lays out the ability for the House to address the problems that the American people across this country have faced. And let’s just be very clear up front, we saw a lot of debate about this last week — at the heart of all of this discussions last week was very clear, surely from our side, that Washington is broken,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said Monday.
Scalise derided the previous Democratic-led Congress, which he accused of crafting legislation and jamming it through hidden from public view. He said the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed late last month, was “dumped by dark of night right before the vote.”
But rules packages can be amended at any time by the party in charge.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who Scalise replaced as House Majority Leader, said it was Republicans now operating in secret by pushing the new package of rules and proposals for their first act running the chamber in four years.
“I regret that we don’t have an opportunity to look at these rules in the way that so many on this floor talked about doing,” Hoyer said. “That is ironic, but it is what it is.”
Other concessions that hard-right lawmakers demanded in return for making McCarthy speaker are still being hashed out — including placing them on powerful committees.
In an early nod to his former opponents, McCarthy and his team placed Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., to the powerful House Steering Committee. Throughout last week, many of the 20 or so Republican holdouts cast their votes for Donalds instead of McCarthy as they extracted their concessions.