House Adopts Rules Weakening Speaker Kevin McCarthy

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WASHINGTON — Republicans on Monday approved a set of rules governing the House of Representatives that will weaken the speakership of Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Going forward, any single lawmaker will have the power to trigger a no-confidence vote in the speaker, meaning attention-seekers like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) can threaten McCarthy with a no-confidence referendum if they don’t like how he’s doing his job.

The “motion to vacate” represents an enforcement mechanism for a package of other rules changes McCarthy negotiated with a group of right-wing lawmakers who argued the California Republican would be too nice to Democrats and President Joe Biden.

As Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) put it Sunday on CNN, “We will use the tools of the House to enforce the terms of the agreement.”

The fate of the new rules had been in some doubt after a pair of moderate Republicans complained that McCarthy had cut secret deals with members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. Part of the bargain includes seating Freedom Caucus members on influential committees.

Now that the rules have been adopted, the Republican House will require a higher voting threshold for approving tax increases. The new rules also call for a special committee to oversee some of the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigations — including probes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol that may implicate Republican lawmakers themselves.

Other changes make it easier for rank-and-file lawmakers to amend legislation; McCarthy reportedly also promised the House would vote on bills restricting abortion access and balancing the federal budget.

Freedom Caucus members described the new rules as restoring the House to its former glory, a time when major bills weren’t sorted out behind closed doors and then sprung on members just hours before a vote.

But the likeliest outcome is full-blown gridlock later this year when Congress needs to pass a bill allowing the Treasury Department to continue issuing new debt in order to pay bills Congress has incurred over the year. A federal debt default would reverberate through financial markets and could cause a full-blown crisis.

McCarthy and Freedom Caucus members alike have said the House won’t vote to increase the debt limit unless Democrats agree to dramatic spending cuts. The White House has said it won’t go along.

“Congress is going to need to raise the debt limit without conditions, and it’s just that simple,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Sunday.

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