Kevin McCarthy is willing to give away the store in order to stay in business, or so it would seem judging by the number of concessions that he has made and continues to offer up in his bid to placate the rebellious 20 right-wingers who are preventing him from become speaker.
On Thursday, the House began its third day of the new Congress without a speaker under the new GOP majority. Just a few minutes ago, McCarthy lost in a seventh attempt, still coming up short. Until Republicans have enough votes for a candidate, all other House business remains at a standstill.
During the six speaker votes earlier this week, 20 conservatives have stuck together to deny GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California the 218 votes needed to win the speaker’s gavel. Because Republicans won a paper-thin majority in November, nearly all of their 222 members will need to agree on a pick for speaker.
Here are the concessions he has made:
One and done: The rules package released in recent weeks would have allowed a motion to vacate, a procedural attempt to oust the speaker, with the backing of five members of the majority party. But McCarthy appears to have submitted to demands from conservatives to lower the threshold to just one member.
Rules are freedom: The House Freedom Caucus has been eyeing seats on the House Rules Committee, in order to exert more influence over how many and which amendments are made in order for consideration on the House floor. Last night’s proposal from McCarthy would give the HFC two seats on the 13-person panel, which is half of the four that conservatives have been pushing for.
Spending overhaul: Conservatives want the return of “open rules” for federal spending bills, which allows amendments to be offered on the floor by any lawmaker and that is now back on the table. House Republicans are still reeling after the passage last month of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, taking issue with both the price tag and the process.
Three strikes?: Rep. Ralph Norman’s (R-S.C.) interests could be piqued by an offer to hold a floor vote on term limits for the House. “I’m voting for Byron Donalds tomorrow,” Rep. Ralph Norman said on his way out of the Capitol, but he’s proposed a constitutional amendment in the past on limiting House members to three terms.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.), compared the process to Dante’s nine circles of hell: “I’m in at least one of them right now.” And he’s ready to see some heads roll, suggesting that party leaders should “get everybody back in the caucus room and start beating the daylights out of each other until we get somewhere.”
If he gives too much to the Freedom Caucus, McCarthy could alienate moderate allies whose support he needs to hold the fragile GOP coalition together. Some centrists scoffed at a conservative demand for subcommittee gavels for McCarthy holdouts.
“It’s a nonstarter,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., the outgoing head of the business-friendly Main Street Caucus. “For most of us, we work hard to get promoted in these positions by being a team player.”
“To say, ‘I’m going to vote for you if you give me a subcommittee chair’? We do not like that quid pro quo.”
But while it’s clear that Congress needs to elect a speaker as soon as possible, many would say that McCarthy has already made too many concessions and has sold his soul for the position. He will find himself beholden to too many recalcitrant representatives and his leadership will be very precarious.
Today he made another stunning concession, to reinstate a rule that a single House member could force a vote to oust the speaker in the middle of the Congress, according to Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., one of the leaders of the anti-McCarthy group. Earlier, McCarthy had agreed that a “motion to vacate” only could be made with support from at least five members. Now it’s down to one.
McCarthy is optimistic. Today he stated, “I crawl before I walk, I walk before I run,” and no wonder, if you give them everything they want, they’ll vote for you.