House Republicans Turn Focus to China, Spending After Dramatic Speaker Vote

The House of Representatives will dive into its first week of work during the new term with bills to investigate economic competition from China and cut Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding after an extended leadership election that saw Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy of California assume the Speaker of the House position after a divisive fight within the Republican members.

McCarthy prevailed in his bid for the leader of the House Republicans shortly after midnight on Saturday. A small group of GOP holdouts had blocked him on 14 previous ballots before McCarthy secured the position. The usual routing process turned into a dayslong drama that could signal the potential for division on spending and other issues in the narrowly divided chamber.  

GOP leaders have promised to bring up a slew of measures over the first two weeks of their control of the House. These include establishing a bipartisan committee to investigate China’s economic-competition strategy.

Additional bills, which would not likely win support in the Senate, which Democrats control, include:

  • Annulling tens of billions of dollars obtained by the White House to boost staffing at the IRS.
  • Making changes to U.S. immigration policy.
  • Placing new restrictions on specific uses of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 

GOP lawmakers also promise to increase investigations of executive agencies and the White House. Monday, the House will vote on a new set of chamber rules for the 118th Congress, which will solidify some pledges regarding legislative procedure McCarthy made to win the votes of holdouts in its speaker election.

The rules packages will make critical changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics operations, which is charged with conducting initial reviews of any allegations of impropriety levied against lawmakers. 

“We’ll pass the rules package tomorrow, and we’ll get moving on doing what the American people elected us to do,” said Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, incoming Judiciary Committee chairman and well-known ally of McCarthy. “In a two-year time span, we have seen a border that is no longer a border. We have seen a military that can’t meet its recruitment goals. We’ve seen terrible energy policy, terrible education policy…We’re going to unite around fixing those problems.” 

Democrats say they hope to find some areas of bipartisan agreement. “Clearly, we are going to have strong disagreements at times, but we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable,” said Democrat House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York. 

South Carolina Republican Representative Nancy Mace said she was worried that obstruction by some conservatives last week might indicate greater partisanship ahead. “I am concerned that common-sense legislation will not get through to get a vote on the floor.”

Mace pointed to three upcoming antiabortion bills that the GOP could vote on in the next few days. “They’re not pieces of legislation that can pass the Senate and get onto the desk of the president.”

McCarthy’s made concessions to holdouts

On Friday, McCarthy made concessions to win over some Republican votes, including commitments to adding more members from the conservative House Freedom Caucus to crucial committees and tie spending cuts to a debt-ceiling increase. 

McCarthy also agreed to a rule change that would allow only a single lawmaker to force a vote to remove the Speaker. The change could make negotiations more difficult if a small group of GOP members strongly object to any concessions made to Democrats. 

Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said Americans “are tired of these Christmas tree [spending] bills with all the ornaments on them coming in the middle of the night.”

Perry indicated that “if we’re going to pass a debt-limit increase,” the House would need also to do “something to drive the trajectory of the ever-increasing debt down.”