Has McCarthy paid a big price for Speaker post?

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As early as 2015, McCarthy has been lobbying for this prestigious post, where the Speaker conducts the proceedings of the House, but is also the third in line for the US Presidency…writes TN Ashok

Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy may have become the Speaker of the House of Representatives, creating history to win it in an unprecedented 15th round of balloting, but he paid an enormous price by conceding to all the concessions of the 21 rebels from the deep South who blocked his election.

As early as 2015, McCarthy has been lobbying for this prestigious post, where the Speaker conducts the proceedings of the House, but is also the third in line for the US Presidency. He lost the Speakership in 2015 when he accidentally spilled the beans about the political aim of the GOP’s Benghazi committee that investigated the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the emails controversy, the backlash from his own allies forced him to withdraw.

But three years later Paul Ryan offered to give up the Speaker’s gavel, McCarthy was again well positioned to sit in the powerful seat, but voters got in his hair, as Donald Trump’s presidency triggered a backlash and the GOP suffered a net loss of 40 seats in the chamber, denying McCarthy his Speakership.

It wasn’t easy for the veteran Congressman to get his act back in 2022 to bid for the Speaker as Republicans won the House by a wafer-thin majority of 11 seats and it took McCarthy more ballots than any political race ever witnessed in 164 years since the American Civil War, US media reports said analysing his struggle to victory.

Asked why he ultimately allowed McCarthy to become the Speaker, Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida conceded, “I ran out of things I could even imagine asking for.”

McCarthy prevailed, in other words, because his opponents took “yes” for an answer. Just look at what all McCarthy has conceded.

Motion to vacate the chair: House members can oust their own sitting Speaker — or at least try to — by way of a single vote serving as a no-confidence vote. McCarthy said for weeks he would not concede this but caved in even as he knew the sword would hang over his head for the next two years, putting him in constant jeopardy, media reports said.

McCarthy has now to constantly look over his shoulder and not to irk any member for fear of this motion that can remove him from the post. If that member finds a handful of allies, it wouldn’t be too difficult to actually succeed in forcing the new Speaker from his post.

Rules Committee: It’s wrong to assume that after a bill clears the relevant committee, it heads to the floor for a vote. That isn’t right. It has to first go to the Rules Committee, which sets the terms of the floor debate.

McCarthy’s far-right opponents have reportedly secured three slots on this panel, which matters a great deal: With those Rules Committee seats, far-right Republicans could join with the panel’s Democrats in killing practically any piece of legislation before it has a chance to reach the floor, Benen commented in analysis for NBC.

Debt ceiling: McCarthy has reportedly conceded to a virtual hostage crisis that could force the country into a possible default, while scrapping the so-called Gephardt rule, which allows the Congress to suspend, rather than lift, the debt limit.

Holman Rule: Compromising on this, McCarthy has allowed “amendments to appropriations legislation that would reduce the salary of or fire specific federal employees, or cut a specific programme”.

Undisclosed details: House Republicans themselves don’t have a clue on what all McCarthy has conceded to become the Speaker, but some media reports referenced “a secret three-page addendum” to a rules package that still needs to be approved.

Yes, McCarthy’s ambitions have been fulfilled, and he’ll get to sit in a very nice office with a beautiful view. But he’s also reached an opaque agreement in which his most radical flank will have undue influence over the House’s direction, leaving him in a weaker position than any modern Speaker, Benen said.

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