For Political Types: People’s Action update on
House Speaker fight concessions

January 9, 2023

For those who are following closely the fallout from the recent fight on the House floor to elect a new Speaker.  As you may know, in order to finally get the votes he needed to take the gavel, now Speaker McCarthy made many concessions to right wing hardliners. Here’s a communication I just received from People’s Action / People’s Action Institute, a national group whose members include many progressive state groups that fight for citizen rights and a range of progressive policy and fiscal reforms.  I just found this fascinating.

Subject: DC UPDATE: What’s Happening in DC & What You Can Do About It (Week of Jan 9th)

Hello People’s Action!

Last week House Republicans spent the whole week fighting about whether to elect Kevin McCarthy the Speaker of the House of Representatives. After making many concessions to the far right members of the party, McCarthy was finally elected on the 15th vote. CNN has the full list of concessions here.

Below are some that are most relevant (concessions) to passing legislation and the functioning of the Federal Government. Other demands relate more to allowing far-right MAGA Freedom Caucus members to have more power among House Republicans, including allowing any one member to demand a vote to overturn McCarthy as Speaker.

  • “Efforts to raise the nation’s debt ceiling must be paired with spending cuts. This could become a major issue in the future when it is time to raise the debt limit to avoid a catastrophic default because Democrats in the Senate and the White House would likely oppose demands for spending cuts.”

This issue is likely to be the biggest challenge to Congress this year. Congress should simply raise the debt ceiling allowing the U.S. government to continue to pay it’s debt. But Congress has created an arbitrary debt limit that will need to be raised when the government runs out of money. Several right-wing MAGA Republicans have repeatedly stated that they want to force Democrats & Biden to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for voting for the U.S. to pay it’s bills. The deadline for raising the debt ceiling is likely to come some time this summer but it is a moving target as the Treasury continues to tally U.S. Government income and expenditures.

  • “More Freedom Caucus representation on committees, including the powerful House Rules Committee”

Typically, the House Rules Committee is composed of senior members of the party close to leadership and they only allow amendments that will not cause the whole bill to collapse. This demand, along with concessions about members being allowed to offer more amendments will make passing legislation harder. 

  •  “Move 12 appropriations bills individually. Instead of passing separate bills to fund government operations, Congress frequently passes a massive year-end spending package known as an “omnibus” that rolls everything into one bill. Conservatives rail against this, arguing that it evades oversight and allows lawmakers to stick in extraneous pet projects.” 

This is a fine goal if House Republicans were capable of compromise. It’s likely that FY2023 funding ends up getting extended into next year but House Republicans are likely to threaten or cause a government shutdown. 

  • Cap discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels, which would amount to lower levels for defense and domestic programs.

They are trying to undo the Omnibus that just passed. This is unlikely but will make it hard to get annual appropriations passed this year. 

  • “The House will hold votes on key conservative bills, including a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits and border security.”

These will be used to message and won’t pass the Senate. The New York Times reports on the promise to create an investigative committee to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government: House Republicans are preparing a broad inquiry into the FBI and security and intelligence agencies, planning a vote this week on a resolution to create a special Judiciary subcommittee tasked to examine “weaponization of the federal government.”

The House Judiciary Committee (typically stacked with the most right wing extremist Republican members) has also promised to draft impeachment papers for the Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Aly Mayorkas. If the House votes to impeach them, it is not likely that the Senate would remove them but the process will take an enormous amount of staff resources for the two agencies hampering the two cabinet secretaries from doing their jobs. 

The House will begin to vote on these new rules today and a couple of rank and file House Republican members have said they may not vote for the package so there may still be changes to rules.