Washington — GOP Rep. Nancy Mace said Sunday she is “on the fence” about supporting a rules package that will govern the way the House operates under Republican control, citing the backroom-deal making that occurred with the group of conservatives who initially opposed new Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the gavel.
“I like the rules package. It is the most open, fair, and fiscally conservative package we’ve had in 30 years. I support it, but what I don’t support is a small number of people trying to get a deal done or deals done for themselves in private, in secret, to get a vote or vote present. I don’t support that,” Mace told “Face the Nation.” “That is just what Nancy Pelosi does. And that’s not what they should be doing. And so I am on the fence right now about the rules package vote tomorrow for that reason.”
Republicans control 222 seats in the House for the 118th Congress, a narrow margin that allows only up to four defections in order for legislation to pass without Democratic support. GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas reiterated in an interview with “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he plans to oppose the rules package when it comes up for a vote Monday, leaving McCarthy and his leadership team with little room for error in order for it to pass, particularly if Mace also ends up voting against it.
The measure includes some of the concessions that McCarthy made in order to win enough support from his Republican colleagues to claim the speakership. He secured the votes to capture the gavel on the 15th ballot late Friday night after more than four days of voting.
While McCarthy started the speaker’s election being opposed by a bloc of 20 conservative detractors, he chipped away at their opposition Friday, eventually winning votes from 14. But six far-right members withheld their support, and GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida derailed McCarthy’s near-win on the 14th ballot by voting “present.”
Gaetz’s vote dramatically escalated tensions among Republicans and led McCarthy to confront him directly on the House floor. But on the 15th ballot, after some fielded calls from former President Donald Trump, Gaetz and the five other holdouts voted “present,” paving the way for McCarthy to become speaker.
Mace excoriated Gaetz, calling him a “fraud.”
“Every time he voted against Kevin McCarthy last week he sent out a fundraising email,” she said. “What you saw last week was a constitutional process diminished by those kinds of political actions. I don’t support that kind of behavior.”
McCarthy’s victory capped weeks of negotiations with the group of conservative holdouts, and the rules package put forth includes some — but not all — of the concessions McCarthy made to win most of their votes. Chief among them is his agreement to lower the threshold for the motion to vacate from five to one House member, which allows any single member to call for a vote to oust the speaker.
Mace said the proposed package released Friday includes some “good ideas,” such as requiring bills to be released 72 hours before a vote on the House floor, providing a path to balance the budget in 10 years and ordering new mandatory spending to be offset by cuts elsewhere. But she decried the lack of transparency surrounding the talks, which left other Republicans in the dark about what deals were made behind closed doors.
“My question really is, today, is what back room deals did they try to cut? And did they get those because we shouldn’t be operating like Nancy Pelosi, this small faction,” Mace said. “They’re the ones that are saying they were ‘fighting the swamp,’ but then yet went and tried to act like you know, like, they actually are the swamp by trying to do these backroom deals. And we don’t know what they got, or didn’t get. We haven’t seen it. We don’t have any idea what promises were made or what gentleman’s handshakes were made. We just have no idea at this point. And it does give me quite a bit of heartburn, because that’s not what we ran on.”
The South Carolina Republican said she is “considering” withholding her vote on the rules package until she knows the full scope of the agreements made with the conservatives who initially opposed McCarthy.
“I want to see it in writing. I want to see what promises were made,” Mace said. “And what we are being told is that these handshakes, what’s going on these promises will go through regular order and go through the regular appropriations process. I don’t want to see defense cuts. We don’t know what deals were made. And that’s something that we should be transparent about. Sunshine is the best medicine.”
Gonzales, who first said Friday he would oppose the rules package, reiterated he still plans to vote against the plan in part because it could lead to a cut to defense spending.
The Texas Republican told “Face the Nation” that slashing military spending is a “horrible idea” given the current environment around the world, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing threat in the Pacific.
“I’m going to visit Taiwan here in a couple of weeks,” he said. “How am I going to look at our allies in the eye and say, ‘I need you to increase your defense budget, but yet America is going to decrease ours?’”
Gonzales stressed that while he plans to vote against the package, he is not pushing other Republicans to do the same. But he predicted the new Congress will only face growing challenges given how the GOP struggled to elect a speaker and warned Republican leaders not to allow the far-right faction, which he called the “insurgency caucus,” to “take hold and dictate.”
“The speaker vote is the easiest vote we’ll take in Congress, and it was pretty chaotic. The rules package is the next easiest vote,” he said. “The House of Representatives is a rough and rowdy place. Anybody that watched C-Span this week got to see it firsthand. This is only the beginning.”
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