Republicans, Now in Majority Control, Plan to Transform the House; Pass Rules Package by Narrow Margin

Now that Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives, several new changes were adopted after they narrowly passed a vote, 220-213, during the new session of the 118th Congress. Here’s a look at what to expect.

Increased pressure on the Speaker

New House rules will allow lawmakers to remove the Speaker in what is known as a motion to vacate. A majority vote by the House would be needed for the Speaker to be removed.

Hoping to appease more conservative members, newly-elected Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy from California agreed to allow as few as five GOP members to begin a vote to remove him. However, that wasn’t enough for some of the most conservative members, and McCarthy agreed to reduce the threshold to one, which was historically the rule.

Supporters of the one-person threshold say it promotes accountability. The last use of the motion was in 2015, when then-Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a member of the GOP who became President Trump’s chief of staff, introduced a motion to declare the office of the Speaker vacant. Just two months later, Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio stepped down.

Investigations set to fire up

The rules package calls on the House to vote on a resolution that would establish a committee to investigate several things involving “strategic competition” between China and the U.S. as lawmakers look to take a more hardline approach with the nation.

The package also calls for creating a “select subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal government” within the Judiciary Committee. The committee is headed by Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, who is a close ally of Trump.

“We’re going to get into what’s going on at the FBI where we have had 14 whistleblowers come to talk to us about the weaponization of government there and the political nature of the Justice Department,” said Jordan.

Democrats say the panel is the “weaponization” to push a far-right agenda.

Putting a stop to proxy voting

As the Covid-19 pandemic deluged the United States and the death toll passed 80,000, the House passed new rules which allowed lawmakers to vote by proxy. Under regulations, members assigned their vote to a different lawmaker who then announced on the floor of the House how the missing lawmaker was voting on a particular bill.

GOP members were opposed to proxy voting from the beginning. As part of campaign promises, the proxy voting allowance will be removed.

Republican Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana said ending proxy voting would speed up the voting process and increase collaboration.

“It’s about making Congress work again where people have to show up and do their jobs in person like everybody else in the real world has to,” said Scalise.

Resurrection of the Holman Rule

Republicans are also resurrecting the Holman Rule, which allows lawmakers to include language that can slash specific salaries or positions and rearrange an agency. The GOP claims the rule is about increasing accountability. Rep. Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia, said the rule was created as a tool to cut spending by restructuring an agency. Enacted in 1876, Representative William Holman believed spending was out of control and needed a rule limiting it.

Opponents of the rule say it could be used to target an individual or form a special council over ideological differences, such as the one investigating the presence of classified documents at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. However, the Senate, which is Democrat-led, would have to go along with the House’s decision on the rule, which is unlikely.

Ethics office revamp

Republicans proposed significant revisions to the Office of Congressional Ethics, which launches reviews of ethics complaints and, when required, refers its findings to the House Committee on Ethics. Only that committee has the authority to recommend disciplinary action.

However, the office initiating a review plays a crucial role in ensuring complaints made by the public are followed up. The board is comprised of six members and two alternates. According to advocacy groups that oppose the changes, the GOP rules package would fundamentally gut the office.

The new rules would force three of four Democrats on the eight-member board to vacate their positions immediately because they would already have served past an eight-year term limit imposed by the rules. Additionally, it requires OCE staff to have been hired within 30 days of the rule’s passage, making it difficult to screen and hire candidates for the jobs in such a brief period.