Feb 1, 2023 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy whips votes on Omar as House preps Thursday vote

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and pink tie, speaks into a microphone while sitting in a chair next to an American flag.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

The House plans to vote Thursday on removing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) flipped several votes in his favor.

Why it matters: McCarthy made several concessions to dissenting members of his conference in order to get them on board — a tactic that has become a hallmark of how he governs his narrow majority.

Driving the news: Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) told Axios that McCarthy, in a phone call Wednesday morning, gave a verbal agreement to push a rule change making it more difficult to remove members from committees — defusing what lawmakers in both parties have lamented is a tit-for-tat.

  • Buck’s proposal would require bipartisan approval from the Ethics Committee for the House to vote to remove a member from a committee.
  • "He committed to the process of getting something like that done," Buck said of his call with McCarthy.

What he's saying: McCarthy confirmed the conversation to Axios.

  • "What I told him ... [is] we want due process," McCarthy said, "I actually want to work with the Democrats on it, too, because I think it's healthy for the institution."

The backdrop: Even as they plan to boot Omar from Foreign Affairs, many Republicans, particularly moderates, have complained about committee assignments being increasingly forfeit as part of escalating partisan tensions.

  • "I do think when this is all said and done, at some point, can we just shake hands and say, 'Let's not do this anymore,'" said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.). "It's just not healthy for the rapport of the House."

By the numbers: Buck is the second House Republican McCarthy flipped in recent days. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) announced her plan to vote for the resolution on Tuesday.

  • McCarthy told Axios he had the same conversation with her as he did with Buck.
  • "I think giving people a chance to explain themselves ... is always good," she said, "And I think it sets a precedent and I hope Democrats will also have things like that."

The other side: Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), at an Axios News Shapers event on Wednesday morning, signaled she is still strongly opposed to the resolution.

  • "We're saying, because you said something we disagree with, that your opinion is wrong, we're now just going to arbitrarily kick you off a committee," she said. "There's no due process in that."
  • "If there were a process with due process that gave somebody the right to have an investigation, have a hearing, have a vote handled by the Ethics Committee unanimously and then brought to the floor, that's different," Mace added.

What we're hearing: Several other representatives have told Axios they are either undecided or refused to say how they're voting.

  • “I’m kind of listening to everybody," said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), calling Omar a "friend" and saying he and McCarthy "have a pretty good understanding."
  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said he still needs to read the resolution, while Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), who had expressed concerns about giving Omar due process, said, "We'll find out tomorrow."
  • Another undecided, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), declined to say how he plans to vote, but told Axios, "I think it's pretty clear how this thing is going to end up."

The bottom line: "It'll pass," said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.)

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