Most people are aware that the U.S. House of Representatives required a nearly unprecedented 15 votes over several days to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as Speaker, but may not understand why.
The 20 or so Republican holdouts who finally came around to either vote for McCarthy or vote “present” in order to guarantee his ultimate victory have negotiated a series of written assurances as to how the House will transact its business going forward. The results look very promising for citizens concerned about transparency in the legislative process, out-of-control government spending, and holding votes on issues important to families.
Every two years, U.S. voters elect all 435 members of the House, which then begins a new two-year term called a “session.” The House is now beginning its 118th session, and each new session is marked by a vote on a new Speaker of the House, as wells as an agreed-upon set of rules for conducting business.
Those agreed-upon rules, sometimes referred to as the “rules package,” are every bit as significant as who is elected Speaker, if not more so. They determine what bills get to the floor of the House for debate, what amendments can be offered, and in general, who gets a voice in the process.
In the end, McCarthy received 216 votes for Speaker, which was a majority of those casting a vote. The rules package, which was voted on and approved with 220 Republican votes (and one Republican and all Democrats voting “no”) on Monday, January 9, contains significant changes to many of the rules that were in place during the previous session of the House.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told Spectrum News the changes are “fundamental, and they really empower the representatives who are sent here to do a job and represent their people.”
Some of those changes included:
More conservatives on House Rules Committee. The conservative House Freedom Caucus members were granted three of the nine seats on the powerful House Rules Committee, which dictates the terms of how bills are brought to the floor and how they can be amended. That should allow more bills of importance to families and social conservatives to make it to the floor for a vote.
Cut-as-you-go policy. Legislation will not be considered if it increases mandatory spending over a 5- or 10-year period. Bills for new spending are required to find offsetting spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
72 hours advance notice on text of bills. Conservative lawmakers have long complained of receiving a multi-thousand-page bill only hours before a vote on the bill was scheduled. This has meant they are voting on bills they don’t even have time to read. How is that wise? The new rules require the text of proposed bills to be provided 72 hours in advance of any vote.
Single-subject bills. Legislation must address a single subject. The purpose of that requirement is to discourage the introduction of massive bills covering a number of subjects, which often combine unrelated and often strongly objectionable provisions into “must-pass” bills.
Supermajority vote required to raise taxes.
Require a vote to raise the debt limit. The debt limit is supposed to hold Congress accountable by limiting spending. The old rules allowed automatic increases to occur to the debt limit rather than force a debate and vote, which shielded representatives from necessary accountability.
Fiscal accountability of federal employees and programs. The rules package re-establishes the “Holman Rule” first set in place in 1876, which allows amendments to appropriations bills for the purpose of slashing salaries of, or to fire, specific federal employees, or to cut specific programs.
Hold a vote to bar taxpayer-funded abortions by making the Hyde Amendment permanent. Currently it is attached as a rider to annual appropriations bills, and there have been attempts from pro-abortion legislators recently to leave the amendment out of such appropriations bills.
Other changes include: re-institution of in-person voting from the House floor, and the revocation of proxy voting, introduced during COVID-19; and allowing a single lawmaker to request an immediate vote to remove the Speaker in a “vacate-the-chair” motion.
And, notably, the rules package also requires the House to hold a vote on several key issues:
- A resolution establishing a “select committee on the Weaponization of the Federal government.”
- Rescind $72 billion in funding for the IRS previously approved by Congress last year in the Inflation Reduction Act for the purpose of hiring an estimated 87,000 new agents.
- Prohibit sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China
Finally, while not included in the rules package, McCarthy has agreed to negotiate with the conservative holdouts about capping federal spending at fiscal year 2022 levels. The U.S. national debt has ballooned to over $31 trillion. That amounts to approximately $247,000 per taxpayer.
The new rules package in the House was made possible by conservative victories in the November elections. Elections have consequences, and the new House appears poised to rein in federal spending, hold government agencies more accountable, and hold meaningful votes on bills that are important to families and conservative taxpayers.
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