Incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., receives the gavel from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., on Jan. 7, 2023.Kevin McCarthy won the House speaker’s gavel on the 15th attempt amid opposition within his party. US media is speculating about a list of concessions apparently made by McCarthy to Freedom Caucus members in exchange for their support.”Taking 15 votes to select the Speaker was certainly historic, but in the long run was not particularly important by itself,” Timothy M. Hagle, an associate professor at the University of Iowa and a specialist on US politics, told Sputnik. “It is, however, a signal that there are 20 or so Republican members of Congress who are serious about certain reforms that they wanted to see happen. McCarthy agreed to several of these.”
"Some of these reforms are things that Republican officeholders and voters have wanted to see for some time. Many members of Congress wouldn't want to use such reforms as a point of leverage when the party division in the House was so close. Others saw it as an opportunity to use their leverage to get things done," Hagle continued.
Alleged Three-Page List of Concessions
The existence of a “secret three-page addendum” listing McCarthy’s concessions to the US conservative Freedom Caucus was first reported on by Punchbowl News on January 9. However, many GOP members said that they had not seen the document, while the others refused to talk about the matter with the press.According to the US mainstream media, the alleged list includes a new House rules package that was approved on a 220–213 vote earlier this week.In particular, the new House rules lower the threshold of lawmakers needed to oust the speaker. It also increases the amount of time lawmakers get to review a bill before it’s brought to the floor to 72 hours. (The latter measure is seen as a reaction to recent Democratic-led spending packages which required quick passage and were rammed through the US Congress.) The rules also resume the right of individual House members to offer amendments to legislation from the floor.AmericasHouse Oversight’s New GOP Chair Asks Treasury, Twitter for Files on Hunter Biden Business Deals11 January, 21:17 GMTThe alleged list of concessions also envisages the creation of a new subcommittee to investigate the so-called “weaponization of the FBI,” as per reports. According to the US media, the initiative will grant GOP lawmakers extensive powers to subpoena the White House and will give them access to highly sensitive information from the House Intelligence Committee.Yet another concession, allegedly made by McCarthy, would allow the GOP-led House to pass a budget resolution (that includes a debt limit increase) only if some major spending cuts are made in exchange.The US media is also speculating that the new GOP majority would get more seats on the powerful House Rules Committee, which decides when and if a bill can be debated and whether amendments can be allowed. According to the press, this could mean that “big House rules changes are coming.”The much-discussed concessions have prompted a storm of criticism in the US left-leaning press, which laments the fact that the House has come under control of “radical” Make American Great Again (MAGA) lawmakers.
"If you are asking whether there will be major changes in the direction of Congress now that Republicans are in control (as the question after seems to suggest) then the answer is yes and no," Hagle said. "We would certainly expect changes given the change in which party controls the House. Republicans have been unhappy with the way Democrats have handled several issues given that they also only had a slim majority. With a slim majority themselves, we might have expected Republicans to take a more measured approach to how they lead the House."
AmericasHouse GOP Made No Official List of Detailed Concessions McCarthy Made to Become Speaker, Reports Say10 January, 16:36 GMT
US Foreign Policy: Russia and China
Meanwhile, it is unclear whether the GOP majority in the House of Representatives might in any way change Washington’s foreign agenda, according to Hagle.Even though Kevin McCarthy and some other House Republicans have been critical of the Biden administration’s multi-billion military aid to Ukraine, it is unlikely that the funding will end any time soon, according to the professor.Washington has stepped up military assistance to the Kiev regime following the beginning of Russia’s special operation to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine.”Democrats still support the flow of money to Ukraine and enough Republicans still do as well that the support certainly won’t stop immediately,” Hagle said. “On the other hand, Republicans have long complained about out-of-control spending and many are also skeptical of spending huge amounts of money in this conflict. At this point, it’s likely more members of Congress will be raising questions about it, but the support will likely continue for the time being.”World‘Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish’: US ‘Embargo’ Driving China to Pioneer Own Semiconductor Industry9 January, 17:27 GMTAt the same time, McCarthy’s hawkish approach to China has already borne fruit in the form of a new select committee to address “the multifaceted threats” that Beijing allegedly poses to the US. All Republicans and 146 Democrats voted for the creation of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the US and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Tuesday. The panel is set to investigate the CCP’s supposed strategy “to undermine American leadership and American sovereignty.””I think McCarthy will try to pivot the House to focus more on China than Russia,” John A. Tures, professor of political science at LaGrange College, told Sputnik. “It will be interesting to see what this means for our policy toward Taiwan. I noticed [Chinese President] Xi Jinping moving to try and defuse tensions with Biden.”The political scientist believes that the apparent shift in the lower chamber could prompt Biden to encourage Kiev to negotiate with Russia, “pointing out that he has to compromise on some issues with the House.””Hopefully, this will help lead to a resolution of the conflict,” Tures suggested.Still, one should not expect any dramatic changes after McCarthy got his speaker’s gavel, according to the observers: the crux of the matter is that the Senate and the White House are still controlled by the Democratic Party.
"Of course, it's the president who is the most important actor regarding US foreign policy," Hagle underscored. "The Senate has a role, but being still controlled by Democrats they would likely follow the president's lead. The House has a role, but it's much less direct, except regarding funding. One thing the House can do is conduct investigations, such as regarding the extent certain countries engaged in election interference."
Indeed, one may expect a whole set of new GOP investigations, targeting Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his alleged influence peddling schemes; the handling of COVID by Anthony Fauci, former chief medical advisor to the president of United States; the US’ botched withdrawal from Afghanistan; as well as alleged political bias by the US Department of Justice and the FBI, to name but a few. Earlier, some House Republicans even threatened to launch impeachment proceedings against Biden, who is likely to be acquitted in any case, given the Dems’ control of the upper chamber.Time will tell how the MAGA-inspired probes and the GOP’s leverage over the budget ceiling will influence the Biden administration’s ability to pursue its domestic and foreign policy agenda.