Deal or No Deal: House Speaker Edition
Whether or not McCarthy’s Wednesday night negotiations will get him the gavel remains to be seen.
We’re over the hump in this short work week, but the 118th Congress still remains without a speaker as of Thursday morning.
After a voice vote failed to create clear consensus on Wednesday night, members of the 118th Congress voted electronically to determine if there would be another roll-call vote for Speaker of the House. At around half past eight, the yeas had it by just a four-vote margin, and Congress agreed to return Thursday at noon.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy and his allies met with some of the 20 holdouts for his speaker bid. The negotiations between the pro- and anti-McCarthy factions have ebbed and flowed. After the disappointing midterm results in November, it became clear that some members of the Republican caucus would attempt to stymie McCarthy’s path to the gavel and try to extract concessions. For a time, McCarthy was willing to negotiate, whether it be on House rules or committee assignments, but red-lines on both sides, such as rules pertaining to motions to vacate the Speaker, remained.
In the immediate lead up to the official House Speaker vote, McCarthy decided the time to negotiate was over, and that it was time to act tough. The move spectacularly backfired. McCarthy told members of the GOP conference “I’ve earned this job,” and refused to state whether or not he would go through with threats levied by his allies—namely, that objectors could be stripped of their committees. “You just sealed your fate,” an angry Rep. Chip Roy told McCarthy before exiting the conference meeting.
By Wednesday evening, it was time for McCarthy to get serious about negotiating again. After the vote to adjourn, there was a mad dash for the chamber exits. Members from both sides of the McCarthy divide huddled late into the night. A report from Politico outlined McCarthy’s supposed offerings to his objectors.
McCarthy offered the House Freedom Caucus two seats on the 13-member House Rules Committee. McCarthy’s Freedom Caucus objectors had been pushing for four seats on the committee in order to have a larger say in how the legislative process is structured, particularly when it comes to considering amendments on the House floor.
The anti-McCarthy conservatives have also been pushing for the return of “open rules,” which allows any member of Congress to propose amendments on the floor, for federal spending bills. The demand for open rules became especially intense after the House passed the more than 4,000 page, $1.7 trillion omnibus in December. McCarthy reportedly put the possibility of open rules back up for negotiation, but there’s been no further details related to that part of the offer.
On the motion-to-vacate debate, the proposed rules package would have allowed a motion to vacate to succeed as long as it garnered support from five members of the majority party. The anti-McCarthy Republicans, however, wanted just one vote from the majority party to be enough to vacate the chair. McCarthy seems to have given them that.
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Individual members could be slowly picked away from the anti-McCarthy camp with concessions on specific items of interest. For example, a floor vote on term limits for the House could potentially get Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina to switch sides, though Norman reportedly said he’s going to be voting for Rep. Byron Donalds again Thursday.
Some Republican members aren’t too happy with McCarthy’s conciliatory moves. New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew said party leaders should “get everybody back in the caucus room and start beating the daylights out of each other until we get somewhere.”
Whether or not McCarthy’s Wednesday night negotiations got the caucus somewhere remains to be seen, but it appears for now Republicans aren’t heading to that somewhere very quickly.