WASHINGTON – Fewer than 72 hours after getting enough votes to make Rep. Kevin McCarthy speaker on the 15th ballot, House Republicans will face another close vote Monday night — this time on a new set of rules for the chamber meant to curb federal spending and make it more difficult to raise taxes.
Unlike the Senate, which has dozens of standing rules, the House approves new rules each time a new set of lawmakers is sworn in.
One key rules change would switch the Democrat-installed “pay-as-you-go” system to “cut-as-you-go” — meaning bills cannot be considered if the “net effect” would be an increase in mandatory spending over a five- or 10-year period, according to the legislation.
Under “CUTGO,” lawmakers who propose new spending initiatives must first identify where to cut funding in order to offset the desired expenditure.
Some of those cuts could come from federal agencies –- or even the salaries of federal employees, as the proposed protocol would bring back the so-called “Holman rule.” That allows members to reduce a bill’s costs by cutting “amounts of money in the bill; the reduction of the number and salary of the officers of the United States; or the reduction of the compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”
In perhaps the most controversial rule proposal, Republicans want to end the recent House practice of automatically increasing the federal debt ceiling in budget resolutions and require that tweaks to the limit be made in separate, standalone legislation.
The House will likely have to wrestle with that issue in a matter of weeks, as the federal debt inches closer to its current ceiling of $31.38 trillion. The US debt total went above $31 trillion for the first time in October under a Democrat-run Congress and White House.
The rules also would require 60% of the House to approve any legislation that would raise federal income tax rates rather than a simple majority.
The plan further includes several demands made by the group of around 20 hard-line conservatives who held up the speakership vote for four days last week until they reached an agreement that finally led to McCarthy (R-Calif.) wielding the gavel.
Notably, one includes the ability for a single House member to propose a “motion to vacate,” which is a vote taken on whether to unseat a speaker. Members of the far-right group have said it is a way to take power away from the House speaker and redistribute it within the majority party body at large.
“The framework provides accountability for the most powerful person in the building … in the motion to vacate,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told reporters Friday.
The rebels also achieved the inclusion of a rule that would require 72 hours to pass between the time a bill is posted and it is voted on. That rule comes after Congress late last month passed a $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that spanned more than 4,000 pages — and was not made public until just hours before the vote took place.
However, not every Republican is on board with the package. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), vowed he would vote against the measure last week, citing concerns the new rules would lead to cuts in the defense budget.
“This has a proposed billions-of-dollar cut to defense, which I think is a horrible idea, when you have aggressive Russia in Ukraine, you’ve got a growing threat of China in the Pacific,” he told CBS’ “Face The Nation” Sunday. “I’m going to visit Taiwan here in a couple of weeks. How am I going to look at our allies in the eye and say, ‘I need you to increase your defense budget, but yet America is going to decrease ours?’”
Due to the GOP’s slim majority, only four Republicans can vote against the rules package before it fails.