Five Facts on Kevin McCarthy's Grand Bargain

Five Facts on Kevin McCarthy's Grand Bargain

Last week, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was elected speaker of the House after a historic drawn-out election process that totaled 15 ballots. Delaying his victory were 20 far-right members of Congress who refused to support his bid until he struck a deal acquiescing to a number of controversial demands. Here are Five Facts about the changes Speaker McCarthy agreed to in order to secure his post.

1. Any member of Congress can now move to get rid of the speaker of the House.

Under the new House rules that will govern this session of Congress, the threshold for initiating a “motion to vacate the chair” (which would force a vote on whether to evict McCarthy from his position) has been lowered to just one member. Previously, initiating such a disruptive motion took the support of a majority of the majority party’s members (for example, a majority of the Republican Party’s members of the House). Now, only a single member of Congress will be able to threaten the speaker's job.

2. Freedom Caucus members secured powerful committee seats.

As a condition of the deal, McCarthy agreed to reserve three of the nine Republican seats on the House Rules Committee for members of the House Freedom Caucus. The House Rules Committee, often called the “traffic cop” of Congress, sets the rules for debate on bills coming to the floor, giving it significant under-the-radar power. Freedom Caucus members on the committee now have major influence in setting the agenda for the House.

3. McCarthy committed to bringing certain pieces of legislation up for a vote.

Holdouts secured a commitment from McCarthy to ensure the House voted on a number of pieces of legislation, including a border security bill proposed by Texas House Republicans, a bill to end Covid mandates, and legislation to impose term limits on members of the House.

4. The new House rules restore the controversial “Holman rule.”

Part of McCarthy’s deal with the Republican holdouts is to reimpose the obscure Holman rule, which allows amendments to appropriations bills on the House floor that can cut the salaries or funding for specific federal workers or programs down to $1 per year, effectively defunding them with little notice.

5. The deal promises to put a cap on discretionary spending.

McCarthy committed to not letting discretionary spending, which covers everything from agricultural subsidies to defense spending, rise above the amount spent in fiscal year 2022. If put into practice, this could result in a spending cut of as much as 10% for the Department of Defense.