Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) agreed to a series of concessions that have been criticized by both centrist Republicans and Democrats in order to win over hard-line Republican dissenters in his House speakership bid that took 15 rounds of voting—and some House Republicans worry those concessions could weaken the party’s ability to govern.
McCarthy, who won the speakership after 15 rounds of voting, agreed to vote separately on the 12 different appropriation bills—from agriculture to defense spending to transportation—rather than allow them to be bundled together into an end-of-year omnibus spending bill.
The 12 separate votes were a key ask of far-right dissenters, after conservative House GOP members blasted the $1.65 trillion omnibus bill that passed the House last month, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) telling Fox News the House rules should never allow a “horrendous omnibus bill to ever pass ever again.”
McCarthy also agreed to cap discretionary spending at the levels they were at the beginning of the Biden Administration for both defense and domestic spending, as part of a commitment to balance the federal budget within 10 years.
Several House Republicans, however, criticized the measure, which could reduce national defense spending by $75 billion, with Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), reportedly arguing it could back the government “into sequestration.”
In response to a letter from GOP members, McCarthy also agreed to create a subcommittee on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government,” which would be tasked with probing the federal government’s information collection on private individuals as well as its ongoing criminal investigations, potentially including the Department of Justice’s probe into classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate.
McCarthy also agreed to reinstitute the Holman rule, a law that allows for the reduction in government officials’ salaries and any other compensation paid by the U.S. Treasury.
In one of his biggest concessions, McCarthy agreed to lower the number GOP conference members needed to start a process of removing the speaker, known as a “motion to vacate,” from five to one—even though he previously said he wouldn’t budge on the number, and some Republicans worry it could bog down the House with weekly power struggles.
McCarthy also agreed to keep the Congressional Leadership Fund—a McCarthy affiliated super PAC—out of open House primary races for seats considered safe, and to appoint far-right House Freedom Caucus members to seats on the House Rules Committee.
At a certain point, House Republicans were reportedly considering backing away from a McCarthy speakership bid if dissenters within the GOP demanded too many concessions. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) told MSNBC this week that “many” Republicans had felt “very, very close” to a breaking point, saying “there’s only so much you can ask for, and I think we’ve reached that.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized McCarthy’s concessions in a statement, accusing the speaker of having “surrendered to demands of a fringe element of the Republican party,” paving the way for a “MAGA Republican controlled house” to cause a government shutdown or a government default “with devastating consequences to our country.”
McCarthy won the speakership with 216 votes just after midnight Saturday morning, after flipping 15 hard-line Republican votes on Friday and after four representatives who refused to support him, changed their votes to “present” in the final round of voting—enabling him to win. The final vote came after 15 rounds, bringing the chamber to a standstill and preventing it from establishing rules, swearing in new members or making committee assignments. Throughout the week, McCarthy’s dissenters had opted instead for Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), although Jordan had urged GOP members to support McCarthy, and former President Donald Trump pleaded with dissenters—including some close political allies—to vote for McCarthy. The California Republican later thanked Trump for helping him win the speakership, saying nobody should doubt his influence.