When John Boehner last month announced his intentions to leave Congress, many thought the election of the next Speaker of the House would be relatively unexceptional. That all changed when Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race. The Wall Street Journal reports, “McCarthy… hit a wall before gathering the 218 commitments required to win a vote on the House floor, where Democrats also get to vote.” Adding that the biggest impediment to a majority is “a bloc of 30 to 40 conservative House Republicans” who are members of the House Freedom Caucus.
The Washington Post reports when members of the caucus “talk about what it would take to quell their rebellion, they do not necessarily talk about the debt ceiling, the federal budget or any other demand of the party’s energized conservative base.
They speak instead about rule changes, committee assignments and the hallowed pursuit of ‘regular order’.”
Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), who has been rumored as a possible candidate for the Speakership, said “The false, lazy narrative is that we want a more conservative speaker. But the reality is: What we want is a process-focused speaker… What we need is a speaker who follows the House rules.”
Another member of the House Freedom Caucus Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (Idaho) said, “The only way you’re going to bring people together here in the House is by changing the rules or at least following the current rules that we have.”
The Post adds, Freedom Caucus members want “more bills and amendments from rank-and-file members… more rank-and-file representation on the crucial Republican Steering Committee; adherence to the ‘Hastert rule’ requiring a majority of Republicans to support any bill brought to a floor vote; and an end to retaliation for opposing leadership on procedural votes.”
Rules changes and regular order don’t seem to be a top priority for some of the more senior members of Congress. Pete Session (Texas) says that Congress could not get anything done if the rules were changed to allow more amendments from rank-and-file members. There are also claims that Democrats could keep a bill on the House floor for days at a time by raising parliamentary points of order, and proposing amendments aimed at embarrassing Republicans.
These objections to regular order would be for naught if Congress would adopt the DownsizeDC Agenda which among other things requires that legislation before Congress deal with only one subject at a time, and prevents amendments that are unrelated to the subject of the legislation. Another reform, thus far not part of the DownsizeDC Agenda, that would limit partisan powerplays in Congress would be to require all legislation have a committee hearing, get a committee recommendation of pass or kill, and all legislation be brought up for a floor vote before the full House. Until such reforms are adopted by Congress, expect more of the same because it doesn’t matter who is elected Speaker of the House.