Kevin McCarthy Faces Rocky First Day as House Speaker 

After 15 rounds of voting, House Republicans finally elected Rep Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as House speaker. 

It took 15 ballots, a midnight vote, and a near-fistfight in the hallowed chambers of Congress, but McCarthy is now Speaker of the House of Representatives.

After a quick swearing-in to finally kick off the new Congress, the House began its session. But the hurdles have just begun. Today, House lawmakers will be voting on the rules package, essentially guidelines for how the House operates. 

On the agenda is the passage of the customary rules package that determines how the House will operate this Congress, but like just about everything that has happened since last week, there’s no certainty it will pass – which could plunge the chamber into renewed paralysis. 

It’s full of concessions that McCarthy had to make to get support from a bloc of GOP hardline conservatives. 

Through a combination of cajoling, arm-twisting, and finger-jabbing, the California congressman succeeded in convincing enough of the 20 holdout Republicans to support him – or at least not explicitly oppose his bid for the Speaker’s gavel.

Getting those hardliners on board was not easy, and a lot of promises were made, as well as some key concessions that limit his own power and increase the influence of conservatives in the House of Representatives.

The package includes changes like allowing any lawmaker to call for a speaker’s removal at any time, federal spending cuts, and adding a 72-hour window for members to read bills before voting. And a commitment to vote on term limits for lawmakers.  

One of the key demands of the Republican holdouts was the ability for just one legislator to trigger a vote on whether to remove the Speaker from office.

Another big concession was no easy path to push through legislation. McCarthy promised to make bill-passing more like the good old days, with members of Congress outside of the top leadership having more say over how bills are proposed, amended, and passed. The reason regular order has mostly ended is that legislating, particularly with modern partisan divisions, is hard. 

A third concession was that conservatives could be making the rules.

The House Rules Committee essentially sets the rules of the game on the floor of the House. The committee determines when a bill will be voted on, how long it is debated for, and how it can be altered by amendment on the floor – or whether it can be changed at all. The cost is that conservatives will be able to shape the kind of legislation the House produces before it fully takes shape, and will also be able to stop proposals before they form. 

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