Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections. It also discusses the state of the parties. The state of the GOP is not good.
It took 15 ballots for Kevin McCarthy to overcome hard-right resistance and become speaker.
McCarthy’s decision to give Freedom Caucus members three of the nine seats on the House Rules Committee easily represented the single most significant surrender of leadership power that we’ve seen in decades — one that will have major repercussions for the lower chamber.
Since the 1960s, the panel — which oversees the floor process and decides which amendments are considered —has been viewed as the “speaker’s committee,” with each member handpicked by the leader and genuflecting to his or her will.
Now, conservatives eager to flex will dominate that panel and operate independently of leadership, effectively wielding veto power over legislation. Given the committee’s partisan breakdown — nine seats for the GOP, four for Democrats — Republicans can afford to lose only two votes. That means that the three Freedom Caucus members on the panel could band together with Democrats to tank a bill even before it hits the floor. They’ll also be able to demand changes to legislation, undercutting the careful work by other committee chairs who may not agree with their views.
McCarthy’s camp has sought to downplay this change by arguing that (1) conservatives could kill any bill anyway because of their slim four-seat House majority and (2) it’s better for them to hash out their disagreements with conservatives in committee before bills head to the floor.
But “that misses the ballgame,” as one astute former House GOP leadership source told us: It “doesn’t take into account that the power of the floor isn’t just about what reaches it, but also what doesn’t — and what processes are permitted via amendment.”