McCarthy speaks to media at the US Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Monday, January 9. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP)
Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his allies had to scramble to ensure they had enough support for the rules package Monday after the GOP leader’s concessions to hardliners to win the gavel last week frustrated some centrist House Republicans.
With little margin for error – and the vote seen as McCarthy’s first test of whether he can govern – GOP leaders left little to chance.
Here are key things to know about today’s vote:
The final vote tally: The rules were passed on a 220-213 mostly party-line vote, with Texas Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales joining all the Democrats in voting against the measure.
Efforts to get support: GOP leaders lobbied Republicans who had expressed misgivings, like Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who got on board Monday after saying she was “on the fence” a day prior.
After Republican foreign policy hawks protested the prospect of spending cuts to defense as a result of McCarthy’s dealmaking with the hardliners, McCarthy’s allies took to the airwaves to try to clarify what is and isn’t in the rules package, particularly related to defense spending.
The skirmish over the House rules underscores the herculean task McCarthy faces as the leader of a House with a slim four-vote Republican majority that gives a small bloc of members on either side of the Republican political spectrum outsized sway to stand in the way of legislation.
Concerns about concessions: Tensions are running high in the House GOP conference as lawmakers still do not know the full extent of the promises McCarthy made to to his detractors that did not become public in the House Rules package.
“Operating in a vacuum doesn’t feel good,” one member told CNN. “We’ve been loyal and it’s a slap in the face” Another member said, “The devil is in the details we don’t know.”
McCarthy would not say on Monday when he would release details of the side-deals he cut to become speaker that irked the moderates in his conference. Many of the details – such as tying a debt ceiling increase to spending cuts and ensuring Freedom Caucus members have more seats on key committees – have not been released.
In order to flip the 20 GOP holdouts last week, McCarthy agreed to a number of concessions. That included returning the House rules so that one member can move for a vote to oust the speaker. The California Republican agreed to expand the mandate of a new select committee investigating the “weaponization” of the federal government to include probing “ongoing criminal investigations,” setting up a showdown with the Biden administration and law enforcement agencies over their criminal probes, particularly those into former President Donald Trump.
Another key vote Monday: The House also voted to pass a bill to roll back $80 billion in funding to staff up the Internal Revenue Service that was included in the Inflation Reduction Act, a massive social spending bill passed by Democrats in the last Congress. The messaging bill was passed down a strict party-line vote, 221-210. It now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it will not be taken up.
What is expected to come next: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise laid out the rest of the first week’s floor agenda, including planning to advance a bevy of bills on taxes, abortion and energy – while creating two select committees, one to focus on China and the other on the Justice Department and the FBI.