Kevin McCarthy’s Potential Effects on the House


Photo acquired from C-SPAN, all rights reserved to C-SPAN.

Senator Kevin McCarthy (R) finally won the vote to become Speaker of the House on January 7th, 2022, after a whopping 15 ballots. This vote was extremely contentious and a lot happened, so let’s look at what has changed since his election. 

So Kevin McCarthy won, but what exactly does the Speaker of the House do?

The Speaker essentially acts as a moderator for the House, they announce who is speaking, maintain order, and manage proceedings. The Speaker is also intended to be impartial, and in order to be impartial should help protect the minority’s rights, essentially not let the majority party completely dominate the house. Some critics say McCarthy’s concessions to the Republicans may tip the balance too much in Republicans’ favor, in violation of House Rules.

“The Speaker’s role as presiding officer is an impartial one, and his rulings serve to protect the rights of the minority. 88-1, June 4, 1963, pp 10151-65.” from chapter 34 of House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House

So, what concessions did McCarthy make? 

McCarthy made it so a single representative can call a vote to remove him as Speaker of the House, where previously, half of the Republicans in the House would have to agree to attempt to oust him. Essentially, if McCarthy were to do something contrary to any representatives’ agenda they could attempt to oust McCarthy. 

Part of McCarthy’s shorter leash is that any member of the house can call a vote to block increases in taxes or spending. Additionally any tax rate increases need to be approved by 60% of the House. An increase on the national debt limit also must be voted on by the House. These changes are likely to cause major conflicts with the Democrat controlled Senate and White House, who tend to favor tax increases in order to fund public services.  

McCarthy agreed to elect three members of The Freedom Caucus (a far-right Republican sub-faction) to important House committees. For example, he has given three seats on the Rules Committee to Freedom Caucus Members Chip Roy (TX), Ralph Norman (SC), and Thomas Massie (KY). The Committee on Rules is the most powerful committee in the house and currently has 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats (the majority in the House is given the majority in the Committee).

The Committee has virtually unlimited power during proceedings and can alter and even kill bills. For more information on the Committee’s powers check out their website

Lastly, and very importantly, McCarthy has agreed to have a vote on a bill which limits representatives to three terms and senators to two. Bills like these were shot down in 2017, 2019, and 2021. 

When McCarthy was voted in as speaker of the House the full details of his concessions were not made, many of which were decided on behind closed doors. Because of this secrecy and the massive extent of these concessions, they were contested by Republicans and Democrats alike. Many felt these concessions were too extreme, and gave far-right Republicans too much power.

Additionally, there are concerns that these concessions may make some of the Houses’ basic duties (such as funding) difficult to carry out. McCarthy’s election as Speaker of the House gives him a lot of power. The concessions he has made severely damage his personal power, and pass a lot to the far-right Republicans. Overall, McCarthy’s massive concessions will have great effects throughout his time as speaker as they essentially neuter the Democrats ability to do much of anything in the House.