Kevin McCarthy Finally Won the House Speaker Gavel, Now What?

McCarthy said that the new GOP House will be a crucial “check” on the Biden administration, and he vowed to stop wasteful spending, the rise in the national debt, and the rise in prices at the pump and grocery store.
McCarthy said that the new GOP House will be a crucial “check” on the Biden administration, and he vowed to stop wasteful spending, the rise in the national debt, and the rise in prices at the pump and grocery store.
(Official Photo and Lindsey Pound)

After four days and 15 rounds of voting, Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) wait to become Speaker of the House of Representatives ended.

A caucus of 20 hardline Republicans had initially blocked his path, but several key concessions, including allowing a single lawmaker to force a vote on ousting the speaker, was the key to unlocking the GOP chaos. The final tally on the 15th roll-call vote was 216 for McCarthy, 212 for Democrat Hakeem Jeffries and six present.

Two past GOP speakers, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, left office amid divisions in their conference.

New Agenda

McCarthy, a 57-year-old native of Bakersfield, Calif., said that the new GOP House will be a crucial “check” on the Biden administration, and he vowed to stop wasteful spending, the rise in the national debt, and the rise in prices at the pump and grocery store.

"I hope one thing is clear after this week: I never give up,” McCarthy said during his first speech as House speaker

During his first year as Speaker, McCarthy will need to raise the debt limit and fund the government — both major fights ahead. Lawmakers got a commitment to voting on specific bills and the promise to tie spending cuts to a debt-ceiling increase.

McCarthy said the very first bill Congress will take up will be to “repeal the funding for 87,000 new IRS agents” and that one of the first hearings will be on the “crisis” on the southern border. He also announced the reopening of the Capitol complex to the public. It had been closed since the start of the Covid pandemic.


McCarthy agreed to appoint more members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus to the powerful House Rules Committee, that sets the terms for floor debate and amendments, and the Appropriations Committee. They won two seats on the Rules Committee that could narrow McCarthy’s maneuvering room as he tries to put together majorities for legislation. More symbolically, he also allowed a rules change that will enable just one member to be able to call for a vote to oust the Speaker.

Other accommodations McCarthy reportedly made to sway Freedom Caucus members included mandating 72 hours between the posting of bills and votes on them, and trying for a constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on members of the House and Senate.

They also won a pledge that the top-line budget figure for domestic discretionary spending in fiscal 2024 won’t exceed what it was in fiscal 2022. That includes defense spending, which would have to fall by $75 billion if the cuts are split with nondefense accounts.

He also agreed to open government spending bills to a freewheeling debate in which any lawmaker could force votes on proposed changes. Also: separate votes on the 12 appropriations bills approved each year and a Judiciary Committee investigation into government collaboration with tech companies.

The rules resolution would:

•    Eliminate proxy voting and remote committee proceedings spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic

•    Rename some House committees

•    Adopt budget procedures aimed at restricting mandatory spending increases

•    Repeal collective bargaining rules adopted last year

"I ran out of things to ask for,” said Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a GOP holdout against Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker

McCarthy tried to downplay the idea that the protracted conflict was a bad omen for a highly dysfunctional House in the coming years.

“This is the great part,” McCarthy told reporters Friday night. “Because it took this long, now we learned how to govern. So now we’ll be able to get the job done.”

The concessions McCarthy agreed to will make it more difficult to pass legislation, particularly when it comes time to fund the government later this year. The Rules panel is usually staffed by loyalists to the speaker, so the head of the party retains control of the schedule.

Six of the panel’s 13 seats are expected to be saved for lawmakers close to McCarthy, led by incoming Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.). If the panel’s four Democrats opposed a bill, three Republicans from the Freedom Caucus could potentially join them and block the measure from coming to the floor.

Next up in the House is to approve a rules package, a key component to the deal struck between McCarthy and the faction of Republicans against his speakership. 

More on policy:

Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Will Not Run for Office in 2024
Policy and Payments: What Producers Can Expect in 2023


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