Swearing-in, new president, investigations
The 117th Congress left after November’s midterm elections where Republicans took control of the House. On Tuesday, members of the new 118th Congress rushed in.
Before lawmakers can get into the details of governance, Congress has some housekeeping to do. More importantly, the Chamber needs a new Speaker and the dust has not yet settled with who will become the face of the Chamber.
Most of the action this week will take place in the House. The Senate does not meet until January 3 for the first day and is recessed until January 23.
McCarthy turns to the presidency
As Republicans regain control of the House, the chamber needs a new speaker. Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy is the favorite to wield the president’s gavel.
The California Republican has garnered support from the vast majority of the House GOP conference, but a few detractors have been the source of headaches for McCarthy and his allies.
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The midterm elections gave Republicans a much narrower majority than they would have liked. McCarthy needs 218 votes to become president and Republicans have only 222 seats, meaning the would-be president can only afford to lose four votes.
If McCarthy fails to secure 218 votes, he is not out of the running. Voting for speakers could span several ballots.
Not only will there be a new president, but Republicans will also take control of the various House committees, where the House GOP is most likely to exercise its power through investigations.
The GOP’s investigative agenda is loaded: Hunter Biden’s financial dealings, the southern border, COVID-19, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and more.
Representatives James Comer of Kentucky and Jim Jordan of Ohio are expected to be the biggest players in the conference when it comes to investigations. Comer will chair the House Oversight Committee and Jordan the House Judiciary Committee.
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Bipartisanship in a new China-focused committee
Earlier in December, McCarthy announced that Republicans would establish a new select committee on China with Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, a former Navy and intelligence officer, at the helm as chairman.
“The Chinese Communist Party is the greatest geopolitical threat of our time.” McCarthy said in a statement.
Growing competition with China has drawn bipartisan interest from Democrats and Republicans, and Gallagher has a history of working with Democrats on policies to increase competitiveness with China.
Greene and Gosar back on the committees
If McCarthy becomes president, he has already promised to restore committee assignments to Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar.
Greene, one of the most conservative lawmakers in the House, was removed from office in 2021 by Democrats when her past support for anti-Semitic and Islamophobic conspiracy theories surfaced.
The House also voted to censure Gosar in November 2021, a more sweeping move that signaled lawmaker Chambers disapproval after he shared violent animated video depicting violence against New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Speaker Joe Biden.
“They will have committees,” McCarthy said at a press conference in November 2021. “They may have other committee assignments, they may have better committee assignments.”
Greene in particular expressed interest in both the House Oversight Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. Greene became one of McCarthy’s strongest supporters behind his bid for president and quickly rose to prominence as a bridge between the more conservative and more moderate House GOP conference lawmakers.