Four major battles facing Congress in 2023
WASHINGTON — The United States is heading for another era of divided government in the new year, as Republicans are poised to claim control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 3. Democrats will wield an expanded 51-seat majority in the Senate and control the presidency.
As recent decades have shown, shared congressional control can get messy in an age of rising partisanship and political acrimony. And the dynamics at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue will serve as the backdrop for the 2024 presidential election.
Here are four battles looming on Capitol Hill this year.
A fight for House leadership
Can Kevin McCarthy win – or keep – the President’s gavel?
McCarthy, R-Calif., faces a rebellion from a group of conservative flamethrowers vowing to deny him the presidency on Tuesday when the House takes its vote on the first floor of the new Congress.
If the Rebels — led by Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Andy Biggs, R-Arizona. — keep their word, they could send the speaker’s vote to multiple ballots for the first time in a century.
McCarthy, who has led House Republicans in a minority for the past four years, won his party’s nomination for president in a closed, secret ballot vote in November. In fact, he beat Biggs, 188-31, winning 85% of his GOP conference.
But he will need 218 votes on the floor to secure the presidency.
On a call with House Republicans on Sunday night, McCarthy outlined concessions he would be willing to make to get the gavel, including a rule change that would dilute the speaker’s power, according to CNN, which cited multiple sources on the call. . The change would make it easier for rank-and-file members to oust a speaker in the middle of Congress and was a key demand from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who had turned down their support.
Still, nine House Republicans — current and incoming — said in a letter dated Sunday and obtained by NBC News that McCarthy had not yet done enough to win their support.
On top of that, there’s the small group of five “Never Kevins” who say they won’t support McCarthy under any circumstances.
McCarthy can only afford a handful of GOP defections because of the party’s slim majority. McCarthy allies say conservative guerrilla tactics will only delay the new House GOP majority from getting off to a good start and launching investigations into the Biden administration — because the House can’t conduct any business until that it did not elect a president.
Avoid government closures
Even if the divided Congress leads to a legislative deadlock, it will still have to keep the lights on. It won’t be an easy task: Republican-led houses have triggered shutdowns under the last two Democratic presidents. Will President Joe Biden be an exception?
McCarthy’s fierce objections to a bipartisan government funding bill just before the holidays show the House has very different priorities than Biden and the Senate. He described the funding bills as a way to force Democrats to swallow some conservative policy goals, like tightening border controls and cutting long-term retirement spending.
“The baseline is too high. The spending is too much. We need to cut spending,” McCarthy told reporters after a Dec. 21 meeting with Senate Republicans. it’s missing.”
Democratic leaders are in wait-and-see mode.
“It is too early to judge what will happen in the Chamber. There is so much confusion and disunity on different sides of the Republican caucus,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., told reporters before the recess. “I’ve always gotten along great with Kevin McCarthy. We disagree on a lot of issues, but I try to work with everyone I can to get things done for the American people.
Prevent a catastrophic default
One of the most daunting tasks for the new Congress will be to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in 2023 to ensure the United States can pay its bills and avoid a catastrophic default. Wall Street is already spooked by the prospect of being on the brink, especially after the last Democratic president who faced a GOP house came days after breaching the debt limit.
Conservative lawmakers say a House GOP should block a debt ceiling increase without major policy changes to rein in spending.
“We need fiscal restraint, and we should demand it. And if we won’t get fiscal restraint, we shouldn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling. It’s as simple as that,” he said. Representative Chip Roy, R-Texas. “Neither side of the aisle cares about cutting spending. And we should. … You shouldn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling without structural change.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said the issue “will require a lot of in-depth discussion in caucus” before a strategy is set. “On some key inflection points, like [the] debt ceiling, we’re going to have to find a way forward,” he said. “Everyone is going to have to realize that you can’t get 100% of what you want.”
Schumer said the issue should be addressed “in a bipartisan way – and we will work at the next Congress to achieve that.”
GOP investigations – and impeachment?
After four years in the political wilderness, newly empowered House Republicans are salivating at the thought of investigating Biden and his administration.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., who will likely serve as the next chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee, said Republicans plan to launch investigations, starting with immigration and the Covid response.
“Our first two hearings will probably be at the border…and the second will probably be Covid,” Comer said in an interview.
The House will “eventually” call Dr. Anthony Fauci, who retired as the government’s top infectious disease expert late last year, to testify, Comer said, adding that his committee wanted to hear further. information on how the government handled Covid – which started under the Trump administration – before putting it on the spot.
The committee also plans a full investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and the presidential family’s business dealings, just one year before Biden’s likely re-election in 2024. Comer told reporters he had no interest in targeting members of Biden’s family. “This is an investigation of Joe Biden, the President of the United States,” he said.
And with the investigations could come calls for impeachment — not necessarily of Biden, but possibly of other members of his administration. Some House Republicans are already calling for the removal of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his department’s handling of immigration policy.