This week Ryan Walker, Heritage Action’s Vice President of Government Relations joined the Sentinel Call to discuss this week’s historic leadership election, some of the highlights from the House Rules package, and what to watch for the next two years in Congress.
If you missed the call, you can listen to the recording here.
On the Senate side, new members were sworn in and the Senate immediately went into recess until January 23.
New House Leadership
For the first time in 100 years, the House of Representatives did not elect a Speaker on the first vote. While the media tried to paint this past week as “chaos,” in reality we saw Congress work as it should – giving individual members the ability to weigh in and have an actual debate over policies and procedure.
On the 15th vote, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was elected Speaker of the House with 216 votes and 6 Republicans voting “Present.” Democrat Hakeem Jeffries received 212 votes.
Here is who Republicans elected to majority leadership:
Speaker of the House – Kevin McCarthy: The speaker focuses on strategy for the conference, and working with the rest of the leadership team to ensure that there are pieces of legislation coming to the floor that address issues at the forefront. H.R. 1-10 are reserved for leadership’s priority legislation.
Majority Leader – Steve Scalise: The majority leader sets the floor schedule, and handles the “suspension calendar,” which is a process used to quickly pass non-controversial bills.
Majority Whip – Tom Emmer: The whip works to convince the members of the conference to support the legislation that is being put forward on the House floor.
Republican Conference Chairman – Elise Stefanik: The conference chair works with representatives to develop messaging to explain to the American people the importance of the legislation being passed.
The Republican leadership team will take the lead in setting most of the policy agenda. However, there are now a lot of avenues for conservatives to have their voices heard in the legislative process due to the House Rules package that was adopted on Monday night.
House Rules Package
Every session, the House votes to adopt the rules that will govern its operations and how it conducts legislative business for the next two years. The rules package is 55 pages (you can read the resolution text here and analysis here). And The Daily Signal also highlighted 7 key reforms >>>
Republicans rolled back a number of changes that Nancy Pelosi utilized to centralize her power as speaker and silence the views of most members of Congress. But, going even further, they gave increased voice to all elected members in the legislative process.
Here are a few of the major rule changes Sentinels should take note of:
Bills Posted 72-Hours Before Voting: The rules now require that bill text be posted 72 hours prior to voting.
Motion to Vacate the Chair: Republicans restored the number of representatives required to file a motion to vacate the chair to just one member. A motion to vacate is a privileged motion that requests a “no-confidence” vote be held for a sitting speaker. If the motion were to pass, a new speaker is selected. Practically speaking, this gives individual members leverage to voice their concerns if handshake agreements with the speaker are not abided by.
“Chairman Wednesday”: This rule will allow chairmen, based on feedback of their committee membership, to bring bills to the floor for a vote outside the typical process in which bills must be passed by the Rules Committee to receive a vote on the floor. With conservatives—particularly House Freedom Caucus members—receiving a number of seats on committees, this lesser known rule could give conservatives greater influence in bringing conservative legislation to the floor.
“Church Committee”: The Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, gives “Church Committee” style powers to a Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan. It will be able to investigate abuses by the FBI, and other federal agencies.
Committee Seats: While it’s not actually in the rules themselves, many representatives made side-agreements, conditioning their support for Speaker McCarthy on conservatives receiving seats on the rules committee, and subcommittee chairmanships. Traditionally the speaker appoints members to the powerful rules committee. Now, two House Freedom Caucus members and one “HFC-adjacent” (a very conservative member) member have been promised seats on the committee. The rules committee sets parameters for debate, and determines what amendment votes will be allowed.
This all means we will likely see a process with twelve appropriation bills and open amendments. Make no mistake, the media will try to paint actual debate in the House of Representatives as a sign of dysfunction. However, more robust debate in the House is a GOOD thing.
A more open process means that members will have to vote on policy and go on record, giving constituents opportunities to hold them accountable both now and at the ballot box. Over the next two years, conservatives should debate and work out a platform that forms a united front heading in 2024.
Tips for Tracking Congress
As we begin a new session, there are few tools that can help you track what is happening in Congress.
• Subscribe to your member of Congress’ email newsletter, and social media accounts. You can find your representative here and your senators here.
• Session Schedule for the House of Representatives
• Subscribe to updates on bills scheduled for consideration on the House floor.
• Session Schedule for the Senate
• Tip Sheet: Meet Your Member of Congress’ Staff
These can help you know when Congress is going to be in session and when members will be back in the district throughout the year.
Each Sentinel plays a critical role in holding their member of Congress accountable. I know we say it often, but your work really does matter and makes a difference.
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