Tuesday, May 28, 2024

House Freedom Caucus Shares Speakership Win w/ McCarthy on 15th Ballot

'Speaking of committees, we will hold the swamp accountable, from the withdrawal of Afghanistan, to the origins of COVID and to the weaponization of the FBI... '

(Mark Pellin, Headline USA) After engaging in a four-day display of democracy on the floor of the U.S. House and in the corridors of the Capitol, Freedom Caucus Republicans and their allies on Friday set the first stages for upsetting an entrenched establishment uni-party in a battle for the House speakership.

By the time lawmakers breezed through double-digit balloting Friday to elect a speaker, the band of Republican rebels had negotiated enough key concessions from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to toss him their support, setting up a 14th ballot that unexpectedly burst into sparks of heated confrontations.

Tensions boiled over with McCarthy drawing ever closer to his holy grail, when Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., shouted down Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., during a floor speech.

The shouting escalated when Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., had to be restrained after he lunged at Gaetz during a heated exchange. Tempers snapped with a volatile argument between McCarthy and Gaetz, who had voted ‘present’ instead of the ‘yes’ that McCarthy needed to reach the magic number.

While Gaetz wasn’t the lone ‘present’ vote that could have tossed a win to McCarthy, he drew the most attention, huddled with other hold-outs, including Reps. Andy Biggs and Lauren Boebert, while McCarthy conferenced with his own crew.

The fiery tussle was reportedly over a debate to adjourn for the night, or slug through another round of balloting. When a motion to adjourn flopped, a 15th round saw McCarthy, after four days of healthy and vigorous debate fostered by the Freedom Caucus, reel in a majority of the House to land the speaker’s gavel.

The numbers worked after Republican holdouts Reps. Biggs, Eli Crane and Good voted present, lowering the threshold of a floating majority, in this case 215 votes, that McCarthy needed. Combined with the other freedom rebels who had previously flipped, it was enough to push McCarthy over the top. 

The tide reportedly began to turn for McCarthy during a series of intense overnight meetings Thursday, when Freedom Caucus members were able to successfully negotiate concessions they sought that made voting for McCarthy more palatable, or at least digestible.

Among the key concessions won by the Freedom Caucus:

  • Any one member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair, lowered from a required five members; McCarthy-aligned super PACs agreed to not meddle in open Republican primaries in safe seats
  • Hold votes on bills to include a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits and border security; Pair spending cuts with any efforts to raise the national debt; Move appropriations bills individually, scuttling omnibus spending sprees
  • Appoint more Freedom Caucus members to committees, including the powerful House Rules Committee
  • Cap discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels; Allow at least 72 hours to review bills before they come to floor; Changes to make it easier for members offer more amendments on the House floor
  • Create an investigative committee to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government; Restore the Holman rule, which can be used to reduce the salary of government official

Aside from McCarthy’s reported embrace of the negotiated concessions, McCarthy’s acceptance speech after clutching the gavel played to the Republican conservative base.

“Speaking of committees, we will hold the swamp accountable, from the withdrawal of Afghanistan, to the origins of COVID and to the weaponization of the FBI,” McCarthy vowed. “Let me be very clear. We will use the power of the purse and the power of the subpoena to get the job done.”

It was a start, and even Boebert, who voted ‘present’ on the 15th ballot, sounded ready to get down to business.

“This past week we all delivered on the promises we made to our constituents,” she wrote in a statement released after the final vote. “They told us Congress is broken, and we promised to work on fixing it. We’ve done just that. But we’ve got more to deliver on. We will work to close the southern border, increase domestic energy production, lower government spending, curb inflation, and so much more.

“From the Speaker’s office to my more moderate colleagues, even those I’ve exchanged some tough words with, we will all work together to deliver conservative solutions on these issues for the American people,” Boebert wrote.

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