Republican Kevin McCarthy faces his first test as a “speaker” of the US Congress on Monday with a heated debate over the rules of the House of Representatives from which he painfully wrested the presidency before the weekend.
The elected representatives of the lower house, which narrowly swung into the Republican hands in the midterm elections, met at the end of the afternoon to discuss the rules which will govern their action for the next two years.
This debate comes after a week of great mayhem: a handful of elected Trumpists blocked Kevin McCarthy’s accession to the perch for four days, which had not happened for more than 160 years.
“What came out of these discussions is that Washington is broken,” commented his lieutenant Steve Scalise when the proceedings resumed on Monday, touting the draft regulations, a means according to him to ensure that the House works “ to solve the problems of the Americans”.
But his fellow Democrats noted that Kevin McCarthy had given large concessions to the slingers to bring them into line.
“I’m worried about the deals being made behind the scenes,” lawmaker Jim McGovern said. “These rules do not represent a serious attempt to govern, but a ransom demand for America from the far right,” he added.
During the weekend, moderate Republican elected officials had expressed the same criticisms. “We have no idea of the promises that have been made (…) and it hurts my heart,” said the elected Nancy Mace, in particular, saying he hesitated to support the text.
– “Uncontrollable debt” –
The draft regulations reflect “our priorities and our values”, assured Republican elected official Tom Cole on Monday.
First of all, it increases the pressure on the elected officials themselves, who will have to be present to vote on the legal texts, contrary to a measure adopted during the pandemic, but also on the “speaker”, since only one elected official will now be able to introduce a vote of no confidence against him.
Second, “Republicans have solid plans to hold President Joe Biden’s administration to account,” explained Tom Cole, mentioning the creation of a commission of inquiry into the “instrumentalization” by Democrats of the Ministry of Justice — a reference to investigations into former President Donald Trump.
Finally, the project includes measures “to solve our problem of uncontrollable debt”, added the elected official. It thus aims to enshrine in the “rules” of the House that each new expenditure will have to be financed by a cut elsewhere in the budget, but also to cancel 72 billion dollars allocated to tax officials.
The White House has said President Biden would veto if the latter proposal were to pass outright, on the grounds that it would cause a $115 billion deficit by allowing “wealthy cheaters to evade taxes.”
– Aid to Ukraine –
According to the American media, Kevin McCArthy made other promises to satisfy the dissidents.
In particular, he would have agreed to freeze the amount of the budget for ten years and to reduce military spending by 10%, at the risk of clashing with his camp.
“There has been a proposal to cut billions of dollars from the defense budget, I think that’s a horrible idea,” Republican lawmaker Tony Gonzales commented on CBS. “I will vote against.”
“With Russian aggression in Ukraine, the growing Chinese threat in the Pacific (…), how are we going to be able to look our allies in the eye and ask them to increase their military budget if America reduces theirs?” , he explained.
Especially since these cuts could weigh on aid in kyiv. “It’s all on the table,” admitted Jim Jordan, a loyal lieutenant of ex-President Donald Trump and rallied to Kevin McCarthy. “Frankly, we have to look at the money being sent to Ukraine and wonder if there’s a better way to protect America.”
The scope of these measures, however, is largely symbolic: laws passed in the House have no chance of being passed in the Senate, of which the Democrats retain control.
Although some provisions raise eyebrows among moderates, Republican Party strategists hope there will be no more than four defections and the rules will pass late Monday.