Jan 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP hardliners reap benefits of McCarthy speaker deal

Kevin McCarthy

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus are seeing the first dividends from the deal they struck to give House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) his gavel: prime committee assignments.

Why it matters: The plum postings for Republican rebels fulfill a key concession McCarthy made, handing conservatives greater influence over the GOP conference's congressional probes and legislative agenda.

Driving the news: The powerful House Oversight Committee, which is set to be the clearinghouse for many of the GOP's marquee investigations into the Biden administration, is adding half a dozen Freedom Caucus members and McCarthy rebels to its ranks.

  • That includes Reps. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) — who initially opposed McCarthy during the speaker election before striking a deal — and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who refused to vote for him.
  • Another addition is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a right-wing McCarthy ally who, like Gosar, was booted from committees by Democrats and a handful of Republicans in 2021.

The Freedom Caucus nabbed a new committee gavel — on top of Rep. Jim Jordan's (R-Ohio) chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee — with Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) beating out more moderate Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) to lead the Homeland Security Committee last week.

  • Greene and Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) — a freshman who, like Boebert, refused to back McCarthy for speaker and instead voted present — received seats on that committee.
  • Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), another McCarthy detractor who eventually got in line, won the gavel of the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture.
  • Leading rebel Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) retained his seats on the Judiciary Committee, where articles of impeachment against Biden officials would originate, and Armed Services.
  • And nearly every "A" committee — the four most desirable panels — got new members associated with the Freedom Caucus: Reps. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) and Michael Cloud (R-Texas) will serve on Appropriations, while Donalds and Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) will be on Financial Services.

What they're saying: Members of the GOP steering committee argued that McCarthy's foes in the speaker election — including those who held firm in refusing to vote for him — were richly rewarded in the committee assignment process.

  • "I was watching that and I thought, 'Maybe there will be some retribution,'" Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) told Axios. "Honestly, it was so fair, right across the board ... there's no residual from [the speaker election], nobody had a hangover."
  • Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) said: "We as a steering committee focused on making sure there was balance on all the committees. I think the speaker did a good job with it."

What we're watching: One of the biggest concessions McCarthy gave to hardliners was a commitment to appoint three conservatives to the Rules Committee, which holds considerable sway over what legislation is brought to the House floor.

  • Unlike with most committees, members of the Rules Committee are tapped by their party's leaders, giving McCarthy sole discretion over which Republicans get appointed.
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