House rules package in the spotlight after Speaker vote drama

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The rules package that would govern House procedures throughout the new session of Congress is taking center stage after the drawn-out Speakership election in which Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) fought for the votes he needed to eventually take the top leadership spot.

Faced with a group of around 20 lawmakers from his own party who voted for alternative candidates and stalled progress until a 15th round of ballots, McCarthy made a number of concessions on the package in order to flip enough GOP holdouts — including changes to the procedure for introducing amendments and a change to lower the bar for motions to oust a sitting Speaker.

McCarthy eventually flipped a handful of Republican holdouts and won the Speakership in the 15th bout of voting early Saturday with 216 votes, with some Republicans voting “present.” All Democrats voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

Now that the House finally has a Speaker and new members have been sworn in, the rules package is next on the docket, and is expected to come up for a vote Monday.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) on CBS’s “Face the Nation” said on Sunday there are “some very great ideas” in the rules proposed, but she’s worried about any “backroom deals” that may have been brokered as McCarthy worked behind the scenes to get the hard-line holdouts to vote for him.

“What I saw last week was a small faction … trying to cut backroom deals in private, in secret, without anyone knowing what else was going on,” Mace said, raising concerns about a smaller group within the 20 Republicans who resisted McCarthy.

“We don’t have any idea what promises were made, or what gentlemen’s handshakes were made,” Mace said, adding that the lack of transparency gives her “quite a bit of heartburn.”

“So my question really is today is: What backroom deals were cut? And did they get those?” she asked.

Mace said she’ll have to carefully consider supporting the rules package, while Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said he’s confident McCarthy will get the votes to pass it.

“I think we’ll get the 218 votes we need to pass the rules package,” Jordan said on “Fox News Sunday” with host Shannon Bream.

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), however, on “Face the Nation” Sunday said he doesn’t plan to support the rules package due to a possible cut in defense spending.

The GOP response to the drama during the Speakership race — and to the divisions within the party as lawmakers split on support for McCarthy — has varied, with some Republicans on Sunday dismissing the turmoil as “pointless” and others calling it a “healthy” exercise in democracy.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that there wasn’t “as much disagreement as everyone thinks” in negotiations about the rules package and that the drama was “pointless.”

“There was no reason for us to keep voting, keep voting, keep allowing these speeches that just degraded and diminished and insulted Kevin McCarthy. We didn’t have to keep doing that. We could have just adjourned for the whole week and just kept negotiating. So that’s where the heartburn is and that’s what I want people to know. This deal was easy. That wasn’t the hard part,” Crenshaw said.

On the other hand, Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) said on ABC’s “This Week” that the debate on display last week is “what a healthy democracy actually requires” and is a good sign for the new Congress.

“I understand the American people’s concern with the delay in electing a Speaker. Certainly it’s going to be a challenge to have a conference full of independent thinkers with a thin majority. But not only did the Framers of our Constitution expect us to debate the operations of the House … that’s what a healthy democracy actually requires,” Barr said.

And Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on “State of the Union” said Congress needs conflict in order to get lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to the debate table.

“Let’s remember that a little temporary conflict is necessary in this town in order to stop this town from rolling over the American people,” Roy said.

“I don’t think anybody, on either side of the aisle, could say with a straight face that they think that Washington is doing good work for the American people on a regular basis and isn’t broken. We have to work to fix this place.”

The delay caused by the Speakership election means the House is cutting it close to a Jan. 13 deadline by which the rules package must be adopted in order to process payroll for staff, according to guidance from the House Administration Committee first reported by Politico.

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