House Speaker McCarthy Clears First Major Hurdle as House Passes New Rules for Congress 

The House of Representatives passed a new rules package Monday evening that overhauls the way it functions by creating a more deliberate process for passing legislation and setting up more barriers to congressional spending, which were critical demands of the more conservative members of the Republican party, and major sticking points to McCarthy’s election as Speaker of the House. 

The rules passed by a margin of 220-213, with only one GOP representative, Representative Tony Gonzales of Texas, voting against it. The passage of the blueprint for how Republicans will run the House is the first success for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican from California, after a dayslong fight for the speaker’s gavel and tense negotiations. 

Rules package changes were negotiated to earn McCarthy enough votes to be elected speaker on the 15th ballot. Some representatives pushing for changes were Republican Representative Byron Donalds of Florida and Anna Paulina Luna, a freshman Republican representative also from Florida. Luna said changes at the Capitol will be “transformational, and it will outlast every person in this room.”

End to Pelosi-era voting by proxy

Among other changes, rules include the end to Pelosi-era voting by proxy and requiring representatives to vote in person on the floor of the House. The new rules also include a provision that members of the House Freedom Caucus receive three of the nine seats on the House Rules Committee. The committee dictates the terms of how bills must be brought to the floor and how they can later be amended. 

The approved rules package also includes a “Cut-As-You-Go” (CUTGO) policy that states legislation cannot be considered if it increases mandatory spending over a period of 5- or ten years. The policy requires offsetting spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget for new spending to be approved. This aggressive new curb on federal spending is part of the GOP’s overall efforts to stop adding trillions of dollars in new debt to the deficit each year. 

All Republican lawmakers except one supported the package in the days preceding the vote. Gonzales said he could not support the bill because of its “anti-immigration” policies. He also said he opposes the possible cuts to the Defense Department. However, there is no language in the rules package related to that issue.  

Speaker McCarthy and his team are considering pushing to limit discretionary funding in the next fiscal year to prior FY 2022 levels. Still, some insist that will not mean cuts to defense programs. Republican Representative Chip Roy of Texas, seen as the leader of the Freedom Caucus, and Republican Whip from Minnesota, Tom Emmer, have said that goal would not mean cuts to defense spending.