McCarthy pledges key concession on call with frustrated House Republicans
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy described some of the concessions he made in his campaign for the speaker during a conference call Sunday night — including facilitating the speaker’s ouster, according to multiple GOP sources during of the call. But McCarthy could not say whether he would have the votes for the presidency, even after giving in to some of the harshest demands from the right.
Later Sunday night, House Republicans unveiled their set of rules for the 118th Congress, which formalizes some of the concessions McCarthy agreed to. The House only adopts its set of rules after selecting a speaker, which McCarthy has not locked out, so further compromises could be made in the coming days.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter from the California Republican, he pleaded for the presidency and offered additional promises, including ensuring that ideological groups are better represented on committees.
Shortly after Sunday’s call, a group of nine hardliners – who had made their demands to McCarthy last month – released a new letter saying some of the concessions he announced were insufficient and clarifying that they still haven’t been sold to her, although they say progress is being made.
“Thus far, specific commitments to virtually every element of our demands are still missing, and therefore no way to measure whether the promises are being delivered or not,” the members wrote in the letter obtained by CNN.
This group is still pushing to give a single lawmaker the power to call for a vote to overthrow the president, and they also want a commitment that the leadership won’t play out in the primaries, among other things. Given that McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes in the House, that means he still has a lot of work to do before Tuesday.
The California Republican had told his membership on Sunday’s call that after weeks of negotiations, he had agreed to a threshold as low as five people to trigger a vote on ousting the president at any time, known as the name “motion to leave” the president. President, and presented it as a “compromise”. CNN first reported last week that it supported that threshold.
Some moderates – who fear the rescission motion will be used as a constant cudgel on McCarthy’s head – pushed back and expressed frustration on the call, sources said.
Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota said he was unhappy with the low threshold accepted by McCarthy, although he indicated he would swallow it, but only if it helped McCarthy win the presidency. Other members have made it clear that the rules package that has been negotiated will no longer be on the table if McCarthy’s critics end up rejecting his candidacy for president.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida asked McCarthy if that concession on the nullification motion would net him 218 votes. But he didn’t respond directly, although McCarthy said earlier on the call that people were “slowly” moving in the right direction.
However, later in the call, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz — one of five “no hard” votes for McCarthy — said he wouldn’t support McCarthy, despite all the concessions.
Florida Rep. Carlos Gimenez then repeated Diaz-Balart’s question, asking McCarthy to answer it. McCarthy’s response, sources say, was that they have a few days to close the deal, and they need to close.
Representative-elect Mike Lawler of New York asked Gaetz if he would support McCarthy if he agreed to introduce the motion to overturn the one-legislator threshold, which it was before Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, don’t change the rules. Gaetz replied that McCarthy had refused to accept the idea, but if he made the offer now, he would consider it.
McCarthy said he disagreed with Gaetz’s characterization, arguing that the rest of the conference can’t stand the threshold as low as one person. “It’s not about me,” the California Republican said. However, he asked Gaetz if he could come to a “yes” if McCarthy went down to a one-person threshold, which Gaetz still did not commit to and said that if it was a real offer , he would accept it.
The package released Sunday night includes giving five Republicans the power to request a vote on impeachment of the incumbent president; restore the possibility of reducing a civil servant’s salary to zero; giving lawmakers 72 hours to read a bill before it is introduced; and the creation of a new select committee to investigate the “militarization” of the Justice Department and the FBI.
The set of rules does not change the process for requesting a discharge, allowing lawmakers to bypass leadership and force a bill to be tabled if it has the support of 218 lawmakers.
Other notable items that might be of interest: The ruleset prohibits remote hearings and markups, removes employee unionization efforts, and allows the House Ethics Committee to receive ethical complaints from the public.
Rep. Jim McGovern, the current Democratic chairman of the House Rules Committee, called the House GOP rules package a “huge step backwards for this institution.”
“Republican leaders have once again given in to the most extreme members of their own caucus,” the Massachusetts lawmaker said in a statement on Sunday.
While the rules package is billed as final, GOP sources warned that nothing is final until it passes.
After the House elects a speaker and swears in members, lawmakers vote on the rules package, which governs the operation of the chamber.
This story has been updated with additional developments.