evin McCarthy's Struggle to Become Speaker May Predict

Reasons Why Kevin McCarthy’s Struggle to Become Speaker May Predict House Dysfunction

Kevin McCarthy: The top Republicans already had to deal with a slim majority and a right side that was more assertive. He made concessions in order to become a speaker, which allowed the rebels greater resources to create chaos.

evin McCarthy's Struggle to Become Speaker May Predict

In order to win his position as Speaker of the House, California’s Kevin McCarthy capitulated to a handful of far-right Republican dissidents’ demands to restructure how the House runs, so eroding his own authority while enhancing theirs.

The 118th Congress got off to a historic and turbulent start with the protracted floor fight that ultimately resulted in his election early on Saturday morning, but it was simple to forget why anything of it mattered outside the week’s compelling personal and political drama.

After all, Democrats continue to hold sway over the Senate and the White House. Only around 10% of the House Republican conference is comprised of the hard-right faction that opposed Mr. McCarthy’s ascent. What possible issue might the G.O.P. chaos in one chamber of Congress cause?

In reality, some of the compromises McCarthy’s conclusion would make controlling the House all but impossible. It might be incapable of carrying out fundamental tasks like financing the federal debt or the government. The rebels claimed that was the goal. It might have terrible consequences for the country.

Who controls the House floor?

The majority is represented on the House floor by the speaker. The Rules Committee determines the parameters of legislative debate, including which measures can be debated, for how long, and — critically — what amendments may be presented and by whom, is the primary vehicle for doing this.

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Mr. Kevin McCarthy agreed to give the ultraconservative wing of the party approval power over one-third of the Republican members of the panel as part of his compromise with the dissidents. In practice, that would give the faction the power to team up with panel Democrats who are almost certain to oppose the majority of Republican bills and stop any legislation it did not like from the floor.

Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership
Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership

They could even demand changes to legislation they disagree with, thereby gaming the process to make it more challenging to pass. For spending bills and any legislation to increase the federal debt ceiling, that might be especially risky.

Mr. McCarthy was adamant that his caucus would still be able to accomplish its goals.

“Don’t judge us on how we start, watch how we end,” he told reporters, adding that he was “1,000%” certain he would keep the speaker position for a two-year term. “I believe that by having the interruption now, we have built trust and learned how to cooperate.”

Why couldn’t Democrats work together with more reasonable Republicans to accomplish goals?

At least a few Republicans, possibly including Mr. McCarthy, may be inclined to support spending legislation and a rise in the debt ceiling because they do not want to see the country shut down or go into default. They would be incentivized to collaborate with Democrats on proposals that could pass the Senate and be delivered to President Biden.

The Hastert rule, named after the former G.O.P. speaker who instituted it, J. Dennis Hastert, is an unofficial but rigid rule that Republican speakers have adhered to for the past couple of decades. It states that no legislation should be introduced if it does not have the support of a majority of the majority.

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Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership on 15th vote

Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership
Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership

After four days and 15 votes, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) was chosen as speaker of the House early on Saturday morning, bringing life back to the body that had been immobilized by the longest leadership election process since before the Civil War.

McCarthy’s long-awaited victory represents the pinnacle of a congressional career that he started more than three decades ago as an aide for former Rep. Bill Thomas.

However, the success of the Republican leader had a cost. McCarthy had to agree to measures that significantly reduce the power of the position in order to get the votes necessary to succeed fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) as speaker.

McCarthy’s agreements with a group of less than twenty hard-line Republicans would strengthen the extreme right of his party ahead of a congressional term that is expected to feature bitter debates over raising the debt ceiling and funding the federal government.

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