WASHINGTON (AP) — After four days of deadlock and embarrassing defeats not seen in a century, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy finally broke ground to placate a faction of rebels and secure office on early Saturday, with promises that could come back to haunt him.
McCarthy turned around 14 of their reluctances and convinced the rest to withdraw, securing election as the 53rd Speaker of the House on the 15th ballot after overcoming a last-minute hiccup that derailed his plans. best plotted in the previous vote. In doing so, he made a series of concessions that weaken the power of his office and broaden the influence of far-right members of the House Republican conference, which critics say could complicate his job of governing with a majority. minimal.
McCarthy and his allies felt they were on the brink of a breakthrough Thursday night after Rep. French Hill, R-Arkansas, and other handpicks of the now-speaker met with a group of holdouts on the right, including Rep. Scott Perry. from Pennsylvania, Chip Roy from Texas and Byron Donalds from Florida. The riot was led by members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, which is known for wielding raw power and a high tolerance for chaos to force House Republican leaders to bow to its wishes.
McCarthy’s team presented them with a «framework» of House rule changes and other promises that would appease the group, and that ultimately led six House members to vote «present,» a crucial move that lowered the threshold for a majority and paved the way for him to succeed.
“We had an encouraging visitor last night. And they encouraged us before we went to bed last night that when we got up this morning, we would have a good work session,» Hill said Friday. “Over the course of the morning, we felt like we had made progress.”
Perry, the chair of the Freedom Caucus, said Friday that he decided to vote for McCarthy after that framework was put on the table. But he also made it clear that his support of McCarthy was conditional on keeping the terms of the deal.
«If the frame explodes, I’m leaving,» he told reporters.
the republican rule pack released Friday includes those concessions. It will allow any member to force a “motion to vacate” the speaker’s chair and unseat McCarthy. It makes it harder for the House to raise spending, taxes, and the debt limit. And Perry said the deal includes «conservative representation» throughout the House, including the addition of members of the right to key committees.
Perry and Roy declined to divulge details, but two knowledgeable sources told NBC News that the Freedom Caucus was demanding three seats on the powerful Rules Committee, which controls bills that make it to the House floor.
“It is extremely important that the Rules Committee reflect the body and reflect the will of the people. And that’s part of this framework,» Roy told reporters on Friday. “What we have agreed to in the framework should have accountability. We need to be able to continue to trust that we are going to be able to execute what we have agreed to in the framework.”
While former President Donald Trump’s attempts to pressure reluctant Republicans into supporting McCarthy earlier in the week failed, he worked by phone Friday and arranged three-way calls with McCarthy. He targeted two specific members: Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., a possible Senate candidate, and Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., a Trump adviser said. Both voted present in the final vote.
The deal is meant to increase the power of far-right Republicans, at the expense of moderates who want to push through legislation that could win the approval of a Democratic-controlled Senate and President Joe Biden. It could make McCarthy’s task of passing mandatory bills, such as funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, much more difficult with a slim majority if a group of five Republicans can effectively oust him at any time.
Still, the deal agreed to by party leaders was little resisted by more moderate or mainstream Republicans, with some accepting it as the cost of doing business with thin margins.
“They don’t have to worry about me. I show up to every practice,” said Rep. Mike Kelly, Republican of Pennsylvania.
Kevin Smith, a former adviser to retired GOP Chairman John Boehner, said McCarthy deserves the chance to be the speaker, but warned that demands from far-right members could hurt the House.
“If certain members of the conference want more leadership roles, they should take that opportunity to demonstrate leadership rather than bring down the institution,” Smith said.
‘The Incredibly Shrinking Speaker’
Democrats say the reported concessions will make the House ungovernable and cause crisis.
“What we are seeing is an incredible reduction in the number of speakers,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview Friday. “It’s not a good thing for the House of Representatives. We are the house of the people. We have to negotiate with the Senate. We have to negotiate with the White House. And instead, we are diminishing the leadership role of the Chamber.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., the most recent chairman of the Rules Committee, said putting three members of the Freedom Caucus on the panel, which is usually split 7-4 among parties, could thwart the ambitions of the new speaker.
“The reason these people want to be on the Rules Committee is because they want to screw things up for McCarthy. They want to micromanage every single thing that he brings to the floor,” McGovern said. “He has given it all away, including his dignity, to try to become a speaker. And if he becomes a speaker, his nightmares are just beginning.
“He thinks this is bad, so what is he going through right now? He still has not seen anything, according to what he is giving away ”.
Some in the GOP said there may be a way to prevent the Rules Committee from becoming a bottleneck for legislation that the majority of the conference supports.
«Theoretically, you can accommodate that by increasing the size of the committee,» said Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada. «Everything is possible».
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said he’s not concerned that one person could force a vote to vacate the speaker’s chair. “The reality is that five Republicans right now can stop everything,” he said.
He said the rules would decentralize decision-making in the caucus. “It’s going to be hard,” he said, as he defended it as a better process than the speaker making all the decisions.
During the closed-door talks, McCarthy briefed moderates on possible concessions to conservatives, said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Nebraska. The message the leader got from his centrist negotiators: We can live giving Freedom Caucus members seats on committees, but committee hammers are a «major.»
«No one should get a presidency without earning it,» Bacon said. “When you tell someone, ‘Hey, I’ll vote for you if you make me president,’ that’s bullshit. That pisses us off.»
Diaz-Balart said he had received assurances of «no chair deals» to committees as part of the votes to name McCarthy president.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, seemed resigned to the fact that the California Republican would secure the votes when he sent fundraising messages to supporters Friday attacking McCarthy as «just a vessel for lobbyists and special interests.» Gaetz ultimately voted «present», which helped enable McCarthy’s victory.
He saw a silver lining, arguing that the rule changes the holdouts forced gave McCarthy and his allies “functional straitjackets” and helped “democratize power”.
«I’m very optimistic about where we are now,» Gaetz said on Fox News on Friday night, calling McCarthy the «designated speaker.»