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Here’s What Republicans Plan To Do As They Retake The House — Including Investigating The DOJ And Gutting The Ethics Office

Topline

House Republicans unveiled a new rules package Sunday that outlines the proposed changes GOP lawmakers plan to make as they regain control of the House, which could be taken up this week as the chamber’s new term begins—and is already drawing widespread criticism from the left for its controversial measures.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 23, 2022 in … [+] Washington, DC.

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Key Facts

The rules package establishes multiple select subcommittees, including an updated committee on the coronavirus pandemic, which will now investigate the origins of Covid-19 and government spending during the pandemic.

There could also be a committee on “the Weaponization of the Federal Government” to investigate purported abuses by the Biden Administration’s Justice Department and FBI.

There are proposed changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics that would remove Democrats from the office’s board and make it harder to staff, which governmental ethics experts condemned Monday and suggested could make it harder for incoming Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) to face repercussions for lying about much of his background.

The House would be allowed to take up a series of controversial bills outside of its normal processes, which could make them easier to pass, including legislation prohibiting taxpayer funds from being used on abortions, authorizing Homeland Security to suspend the entry of migrants into the country, increasing oil and gas production and adding additional healthcare restrictions regarding fetuses who survive attempted abortions.

The GOP plans to eliminate a resolution that established labor unions for House staffers, after workers unionized last term amid a broader controversy over low pay and poor working conditions for Capitol Hill employees.

The proposed rules reestablish a “cut-as-you-go” policy that requires any increases in mandatory government spending to be offset by decreases in spending elsewhere, which outgoing House Rules Committee chair Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) criticized as an effort to “more easily cut taxes on billionaire corporations while slashing the social safety net.”

The House January 6 Committee, which dissolved at the end of 2022, will be required to turn over all of its underlying documents to the Committee on House Administration, rather than the National Archives, which the Los Angeles Times suggests could mean Republicans will launch their own counter-investigation to “rebut” the committee’s high-profile probe.

Other proposed measures include requiring the House to consider resolutions that oppose defunding law enforcement and attacks on anti-abortion rights facilities and organizations; making it easier for lawmakers to oust the Speaker of the House and reimposing the “Holman Rule,” which allows lawmakers to cut federal employees’ salaries or terminate them and get rid of government programs.

What To Watch For

The new House term will begin on Tuesday, and the rules package will be voted on as one of the first orders of business. The package is not yet finalized and it’s still possible changes will be made before it’s approved. It’s unclear when the vote on it will take place, due to the ongoing uncertainty around Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his bid for House Speaker. It’s possible that McCarthy won’t receive the number of votes needed to secure the speakership on the House’s first vote on Tuesday—as many House Republicans who are further to the right have come out against him—which means there will have to be more rounds of votes until a speaker is elected. That process could take days or weeks to play out, based on past precedent, and the rules package cannot be voted on until a new speaker is elected.

Chief Critic

“Instead of building on Democrats’ work to create a more accommodating Congress, Republican leaders have once again caved to the most extreme members of their own caucus,” McGovern said in a statement, calling the proposed rules “a major step backwards for this institution.”

Contra

The rules package also includes several provisions that continue policies Democrats put in place last term. Those include mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies in House offices; requiring House offices to prominently display employees’ legal rights and protections and requiring members of Congress to reimburse the Treasury for any settlements over alleged discrimination.

Key Background

Republicans took back control of the House in the midterm elections, with a 222-seat majority compared with Democrats’ 213 seats—a narrow margin that fell short of the “red wave” that the GOP had been anticipating. The party’s controversial rule package is the result of McCarthy acquiescing to demands from further-right lawmakers as he seeks their support for his bid as House Speaker. McCarthy added in the provision allowing five GOP lawmakers to force a no-confidence vote in the Speaker on Sunday, for instance, giving into a key demand from colleagues who have opposed his election. The negotiations over McCarthy’s Speaker bid and the party’s rule package are likely indicative of what’s to come from the new GOP-controlled House. The party’s narrow majority is expected to give further-right lawmakers outsized influence in Congress, as only a small number of lawmakers would be able to derail Republican legislation by voting against it.

Further Reading

Kevin McCarthy Gives Into Key Demand Ahead Of House Speaker Vote — But Still Faces Tough Election Bid (Forbes)

McCarthy offers concessions to detractors with House rules package (The Hill)

Republicans move to retain Jan. 6 committee documents (Los Angeles Times)

House Republicans Plan a Committee on Censors and Snoops (Wall Street Journal)

McCarthy commits to key concession in call with frustrated lawmakers but it’s no guarantee he’ll win speakership (CNN)

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