House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy outlined some of the concessions he agreed to in his bid for speaker on a Sunday night conference call — including making it easier to oust the speaker, according to multiple GOP sources on the call. But McCarthy couldn’t say whether he would get votes for the speaker’s seat, even after making concessions to some of the right’s toughest demands.
Later Sunday night, House Republicans unveiled their package of rules for the 118th Congress, formalizing some of the concessions McCarthy had already agreed to. The House will adopt its rule package only after it selects a speaker, whom McCarthy has yet to lock down, so more compromises are likely in the coming days.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter from California Republicans, he made his case for the speakership and offered additional promises, including ensuring better representation of ideological groups on committees.
Shortly after Sunday’s call, a group of nine hardliners — who made their demands on McCarthy last month — sent a new letter saying some of the concessions he announced were not enough and made clear they Still don’t believe him, although they do say progress is being made.
“So far, specific commitments to virtually every component of our pleading are still lacking, and as such, it is impossible to measure whether commitments were kept or breached,” the members wrote in the letter we obtained.
The group is still pushing to give a single lawmaker the power to call for a vote to remove the speaker, they also want to promise that leadership won’t play a role in primaries, and more. With McCarthy only able to lose four votes in the House, that means he has a lot of work to do before Tuesday.
The California Republican told his members on a conference call Sunday that after weeks of negotiations, he had agreed to a minimum of five people to trigger a vote to remove the Speaker at any given time, a so-called “withdrawal”. Speaker’s motion” chair and called it a “compromise”. CNN first reported last week that he supported the threshold.
Some moderates — who feared the withdraw motion would be used as a constant swipe at McCarthy’s head — backed off and expressed their frustration on the call, the sources said.
Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota said he wasn’t happy with the low bar McCarthy agreed to, though he said he would accept it if it helped McCarthy win the speaker’s seat. Other members made clear that if McCarthy’s critics ultimately rejected his bid for the speakership, the negotiated package of rules would be set aside.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida pressed McCarthy on whether his concession on the withdrawal motion would win him 218 votes. But he did not answer directly, although McCarthy said earlier in the call that people were “slowly” moving in the right direction.
However, in a later conference call, Rep. Matt Gates of Florida — one of five “firmly no” votes for McCarthy — said they would not support McCarthy despite all the concessions.
Florida Rep. Carlos Jimenez then repeated Diaz-Balart’s question, demanding an answer from McCarthy. McCarthy’s response, according to sources, was that they had a few days to get the deal done, and they needed to get it done.
Rep. Mike Lawler of New York asked Gates whether he would support McCarthy if he agreed to bring the motion to remove the threshold to a single lawmaker, a rule change in California Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Gates replied that McCarthy rejected the idea but would consider it if he made the offer now.
McCarthy said he disagreed with Gates’ characterization, arguing that other members of the meeting could not support a threshold as low as one. “It’s not about me,” the California Republican said. However, when he asked Gates if he could say yes if McCarthy came down to a one-man threshold, Gates remained noncommittal, saying he would take it if it was a real offer.
The package, released late Sunday, includes giving five Republicans the power to demand a vote to remove the sitting speaker; restoring the ability to zero the pay of government officials; giving lawmakers 72 hours to read the bill before it is introduced; and Create a new opt-in pledge to investigate the “weaponization” of the DOJ and FBI.
The rule pack would not change the process for dismissal petitions, which could allow lawmakers to bypass leadership and force passage of a motion if it has the support of 218 lawmakers.
Other notable items that could raise concerns: A blanket rule prohibits remote hearings and fare hikes, cancels efforts to unionize employees and allows the House Ethics Committee to accept ethics complaints from the public.
Rep. Jim McGovern, R-R., the current Democratic chairman of the House Rules Committee, called the House Republicans’ package of rules a “major step backwards for the agency.”
“Republican leaders once again bowed to the most extreme members of their own caucus,” the Massachusetts congressman said in a statement Sunday.
While the rules package is billed as final, Republican sources caution that nothing is final until it is passed.
After the House elects a speaker and is sworn in, lawmakers will vote on a package of rules governing how the chamber operates.
This story has been updated with additional developments.