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The deal could make speaker Kevin McCarthy, he explained

After days of negotiations and failed votes in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy and his allies in the House GOP leadership crafted a proposed deal with right-wing holdouts that brought him very close to becoming speaker.

Although those involved keep stressing that there is no final ‘deal’ in hand – they call it a ‘picture’ – McCarthy filed a bid Thursday night. And in the new rounds of voting for the speaker on Friday, 15 of the 21 GOP votes swung in favor of him. If she swings just three of the remaining six recalcitrant Republicans, he’ll have the support he needs. Some reports suggest he thinks he will get there when the House reconvenes late Friday night.

So what exactly is in that deal – er, framework?

The full proposal has not been leaked, but parts of it haveand from what we know, it appears there are three main components.

First: McCarthy made promises about how he would address spending issues like appropriation bills and the debt ceiling, and those promises appear to be setting the stage for a tense showdown with Democrats.

Second: McCarthy agreed to a change in House rules that would make it easier to trigger an effective vote of no confidence in his own leadership.

Third: McCarthy agreed to committee assignments demanded by the holdouts, including placing Republicans associated with the hardline Freedom Caucus on the powerful Rules Committee.

That’s probably not all McCarthy has given away — he’s also likely made various other specific promises to specific people privately. But the overall upshot is that the GOP’s right flank will have a say in how McCarthy runs his House, and that there will be tense times as they try to tackle the groundwork of government.

That was always going to be the case, though, and the real questions still pertain whether and how House Republicans can step down and strike a deal with Democrats to keep the government open and prevent a default on the country’s debt.

1) McCarthy’s debt ceiling and spending commitments

The picture, or at least what we know of it, covers McCarthy’s plan for how he and the House GOP will handle the thorny spending fights that are likely to dominate the legislative agenda this year. Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Times got the text of this part of the framework and tweeted it in this thread. Important bits include:

The debt ceiling

At some point this year, Congress it needs to raise the debt ceiling to prevent a potentially catastrophic default on the national debt. Conservatives want to use this pending bill as leverage, to force Democrats to accept the spending cuts they want. (This is a strategy the House GOP has used previously in a The 2011 showdown with President Obama.) Democrats have said this would be a hostage-taking and they will not negotiate with it.

According to FerrecchioMcCarthy’s offer states, “We will not accept a debt limit increase in the absence of a discretionary budget agreement consistent with the House-passed budget resolution or other commensurate tax reforms to curb and limit spending growth.”

This is basically a promise to try and get a tough deal on the debt ceiling battle. McCarthy has already he said he was going to do it last October, so that’s nothing new. But it creates a dangerous situation by the end of the year.

Balance

McCarthy pledges that House Republicans create a plan for a balanced federal budget within 10 years, including “long-term reforms” to mandated spending programs (entitlements like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid), as well as limiting discretionary spending where it was during the first fiscal year of the Biden administration.

This will be a politically dangerous and controversial endeavor – it has already led to titles to underline this would mean cutting $75 billion in defense spending from current levels. And any such budget, if the House can pass one, would be dead by the time it got to the Democrat-controlled Senate. But right-wing Republicans probably hope it will serve as a statement of their principles and a tough opening offer in spending negotiations.

Negotiations in the Senate

In recent years, Congress has tended to fund government by running to the deadline when previous funding bills would have expired — which would mean a government shutdown — and then passing a “continue resolution” extending status quo funding levels for a certain period or a massive “omnibus” law that funds the entire federal government (such as just happened last month). Spending hawks in the GOP hate this practice and want to stop it. But they know they don’t have the unilateral power to do that, because Democrats control the Senate and Biden controls the presidency.

McCarthy’s proposal, then, is that the House pass no Senate appropriations bill that does not comply with the House budget resolution. That is — they’re saying Democrats need to give in to their demands on spending levels. Democrats won’t want to do that, so if they comply with it, it probably means a government shutdown.

However, again, this should probably be interpreted as what McCarthy is telling House Republicans he will do initially, rather than his free-falling bottom line, although more on that later.

For all of these spending topics, the GOP House will not be formally bound by this framework in any way. So if they’re feeling political pain from being blamed for a shutdown or potential debt default, those promises could go out the window.

2) Make it easier to request a vote of no confidence in McCarthy’s leadership

If McCarthy violates his spending agreements in a way some conservatives don’t like, they’ll have a way to test him.

For most of its history, the House has given any member the power to introduce a “preferred motion to leave the presidency,” which would force the House to vote on whether to depose the speaker. Hardly anyone has ever used it, but when then…Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) filed one seeking to oust President John Boehner in 2015 contributed to Boehner’s decision to step down. Democrats then significantly weakened that power when they took control of the House in 2019, requiring not just one member but half of a party’s membership to advance this motion.

The Conservatives wanted to roll back this change, but McCarthy was initially reluctant to do it completely, offering instead request five members. After losing his early speaker votes, however, he he gave in and said he would let a member do it.

All of this is important because the dynamics of the election of the president, as we are currently seeing, can give stubborn rebels great influence over party leaders. But once the speaker is elected, the hardliners lose that leverage, unless there’s an easy way to force another speaker to be elected. Now they have one.

Still, there’s a reason hardly anyone has ever used it in House history: It would still take 218 votes to elect someone else speaker, and if the overwhelming majority of House Republicans stick with McCarthy, there will only be one block. Also, if McCarthy is subjected to this after striking a deal with the Democrats, it’s possible the Democrats could save him from a far-right uprising in return.

3) Appointments to the Plum Committee for the intransigents

Finally, McCarthy made an offer of some sort regarding commission assignments that the rebels were asking for. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), who swung from an anti-McCarthy vote to a pro-McCarthy vote after getting the picture in hand on Friday, described this problem such as “conservative representation” in the House.

The details here appear to still be evolving. But This was reported by Sarah Ferris of Politico that McCarthy would give the hardliners three seats on the House Rules committee.

The Rules Committee is important because it determines what will be brought to the House, when it will be brought and how the debate and amendments on it will proceed. In recent decades, it has essentially done the bidding of the Speaker of the House—indeed, it is a major source of the Speaker’s power over the House.

So handing some committee seats over to fiery conservatives who have a tendency to try to screw up party leaders’ agenda would be a nice change. For Ferris, three seats for the hardliners would be enough to keep them from blocking legislation from passing through the committee (unless Democrats cast their votes to help pass a bill).

There were rumors of other promises being made on committee seats and subcommittee chairs. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), a staunchly conservative resistance, reported, wanted to chair the subcommittee on appropriations on labor, health and human services, but other Republicans objected. Harris eventually backed McCarthy in a speaker’s vote on Friday afternoon, but it was unknown if a deal had been reached on this matter.

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Kevin McCarthy walks to the floor before the vote for speaker on January 6. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images