House Adopts Rules Sought by Hardliners to Control McCarthy

The House of Representatives adopted a package of internal rules finally that gave right-wing hardliners more leverage over the newly elected Republican speaker. 

The package outlined how the lower chamber will run for the next two years. It will shape the chamber’s operations and what bills can win approval over the next two years.

Adoption of the rules package is a routine step in setting up any new Congress, but what is traditionally seen as a “housekeeping” issue will effectively determine how Republicans can govern the chamber. 

The vote appeared to be an early test for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who finally was elected to the speaker position after 15 grueling rounds of votes. There are major concerns that Republican lawmakers could once again drag out the process. 

The rules measure was the centerpiece of high-stakes negotiations between McCarthy and the crop of far-right, hardline conservatives who blocked him from the gavel 15 times in a row, finally giving him the position with a list of concessions. 

Lawmakers voted 220-213 to approve the legislation. One Republican, Representative Tony Gonzales, joined all 212 Democrats in voting against the rules package. Another Republican did not vote.

The rules package included many of the concessions McCarthy made to win the speakership, the measure passed largely along party lines. 

The new rules make it easier to remove the speaker and harder to spend federal money. Republicans reportedly say the rules boost transparency and limit spending. But critics worry the rules could affect the national defense budget and undermine ethics standards.

The “motion to vacate the chair” means a single member could effectively topple a sitting speaker. 

And they secured the ability to seat three of their own on the House Rules Committee, which would give McCarthy’s right flank de facto veto power over any bill that comes to the floor.

Conservatives are also claiming victory on enshrining a rule first put in place by Democrats: requiring bills to be released at least 72 hours before a floor vote. But the package approved Monday night includes no new language to enforce that mandate.

At the heart of the rules push by the hardline conservatives, including many in the Freedom Caucus, is a desire to shape a more inclusive legislative process that concentrates less power with leadership.

But House conservatives will soon have to come to terms with a harsh reality: Most legislation that passes their chamber is expected to be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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