If the expected red wave had taken place in November, the US House of Representatives would have remained the dysfunctional body it has been for 20 years. But, since Republicans won the House by only a narrow margin, the man expected to become Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, had a battle on his hands. During the four-day, 15-round Speaker election, 20 conservatives, mostly members of the House Freedom Caucus, negotiated needed structural fixes.
A key concession is the Speaker’s agreement to place more staunchly conservative members on certain powerful committees which are normally populated by establishment Republicans. The House Rules Committee, which decides what legislation goes to the floor, debate timing, and what the rules and amendment process will be, gets 10 Republicans this session. Speaker McCarthy has agreed 3 or 4 will be Freedom Caucus members.
The new speaker also agreed to restore the process whereby Congress votes on 12 separate budgets in a timely manner throughout the fiscal year. The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel points out, “Congress hasn’t complied with its own budget process for more than two decades.” House and Senate leaders put these votes off until they hit a crisis point and then, she writes, “Leaders disappear into back rooms, to cook up mammoth bills that are dropped on the floor for last-minute take-it-or-leave-it votes.” That’s how we end up with massive spending bills that no one has read, like the $1.7 billion monstrosity Congress passed last month.
Committees will be back in charge of legislation. There will be rules to ensure bills address single subjects. If amendments are not germane to the bill at hand, members will be free to challenge them. Members will be able to offer legislation and amendments on the floor. Mr. McCarthy also agreed to a 72-hour rule so members will have at least that long to read legislation.
These concessions will transfer significant power from leadership to members, where the Founders intended it to reside.