U.S. House adopts hardliner rules reining in McCarthy

STORY: The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed a rules package with key concessions to a faction of right-wing hardliners, whose holding out against Republican Kevin McCarthy triggered a dramatic and lengthy fight for him to become speaker.

Monday’s final tally was a near-party line vote, 220 to 213, to approve the package.

Only Republican lawmaker Tony Gonzales joined all 212 Democrats in opposing the package, while another Republican did not vote.

One of the key rules McCarthy had agreed to to become Speaker was one that allows a single lawmaker to call for his removal at any time.

Texas Representative Chip Roy was among the Republican rebels - but flipped to help negotiate the agreement.

He praised the new one-member threshold to vacate the speaker’s chair.

“I could walk down right there into the well and file a motion to vacate a single person right now, because that's the precedent. That's what we're operating under, because that goes back to Jefferson. The whole point here is trying to ensure that we're continuing the great history of the 'people's house'.”

Other changes included new restrictions on federal spending, potentially limiting McCarthy’s ability to negotiate government funding packages with President Joe Biden, a cap on government spending at 2022 levels, and the creation of a committee to probe the Justice Department.

Democrats denounced the legislation as a rules package for “MAGA extremists”.

The full extent of concessions from McCarthy has not been made public, leading to Representatives – such as Jim McGovern – questioning if lawmakers would ever find out what McCarthy had privately promised far-right Republicans.

"Again, days and days and 15 roll call votes, and reporting by multiple sources, tells us that there is this side agreement with the House Freedom Caucus that deals with some of the most controversial concessions. Don't come to the floor and talk about transparency and openness, and a new day. This is backroom politics. That's what this is about. Secret deals that no one's gonna know anything about until it's too late.”

Republicans won fewer seats than expected in November’s midterm elections, which amplified the hardliners’ power and worsened divisions within the GOP.

Lawmakers now face critical tasks in the year ahead, including addressing the federal government's $31.4 trillion debt limit.

Failure to do that, or even a gridlock in Congress, would shake the global economy.