First round of rule changes passed by House Republicans for new term

House Republicans voted Wednesday on a first round of rule changes that will take effect when they take a narrow majority in 2023.

The GOP changed how a speaker could be ousted from power, a move that was intended to prevent the minority party from controlling the speakership.

Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) proposed the rule to require only a majority of the majority conference to back the motion to vacate the chair, rather than a majority of the entire House.

“It is the position of the Republican Conference that the privilege under House Rule IX Clause 2(a)(3) should only be available with the agreement of the Republican Conference so as to not allow Democrats to choose the Speaker,” the rule change read.

Slimmest of majorities

Because the Republican lead is now only one vote, the existing rules could have allowed one or two Republicans to defect from their party and vote with Democrats to elect a Democrat speaker.

Republicans commented on the change and how it would help their party hold things together with a bare majority.

“We just made it so you have to have the majority of the conference to vacate the chair. Well, that’s good because it gives you stability,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) said. “You don’t have a gun to the speaker’s head on every vote.”

“The conference voted for it, so isn’t that what we’re about? 50% plus one, majority rules — I think we’re good,” Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) added.

More rules changes

Two more controversial rules changes will be voted on in the next session. One restores the ability of any member to introduce a motion to oust a speaker, which had always been the case until current Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) changed it.

The other rule requires a majority of the GOP conference to sign off on legislation before advancing it to the House floor, rather than a majority of the entire House membership. This will make it easier to advance conservative legislation even if there are a few moderate detractors in the GOP.

“The body has shown great restraint and member discretion in using that privilege, but it’s always been there,” Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) told the Washington Examiner about the former proposed rule.

“That’s how it’s been forever: Any member could bring forward that motion, and it will trigger a vote on it to determine competence,” he added.