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The rocky start to the 118th Congress was not about ego

Kevin McCarthy
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., celebrates while holding the speaker's gavel after being elected as speaker in the House at the U.S. Capitol on January 07, 2023, in Washington, D.C. After four days of voting and 15 ballots McCarthy secured enough votes to become speaker of the House for the 118th Congress. |

Like many Americans, especially conservatives, watching the fight over choosing the next Speaker of the House made me cringe. The media and some in the Republican party portrayed the holdouts as rebels and even called them terrorists. I wondered what could make them prefer such a public spectacle to compromise within their own party. However, after careful review, I believe many of the issues they refused to surrender are critical to the future success and accountability of the American government.

Kevin McCarthy secured the election as the 53rd Speaker of the House by conceding several significant changes and inclusions to the Republican rules package, which are worth discussing in detail.

With a current national debt of over 31 trillion dollars and inflation still above 8%, several negotiated changes aim to reduce excessive government spending and increase oversight by committee members. Doing so increases transparency into what redundant expenditures may be driving the U.S. farther into debt.  A “cut-as-you-go” rule will be put back into place, which requires spending increases to be offset by equal or greater cuts in mandatory spending. They also reinstated the “Holman Rule,” which allows amendments to appropriations legislation that would reduce the salary or fire specific federal employees, or cut a particular program. Each committee must submit a plan that includes a list of unauthorized programs and agencies within the committee’s jurisdiction that have received funding in the prior fiscal year or have not had a comprehensive review by the committee in the previous three Congresses. The committee may recommend consolidating or eliminating duplicative or unnecessary programs and agencies.

These changes can dramatically reduce wasting U.S. taxpayer money on programs that accomplish nothing of value.  

The concessions also address the ongoing controversy about whether the government’s response to the COVID pandemic was reasonable. The mandate of the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will include “to investigate, make findings, and provide legislative recommendations on the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic.” Regardless of one’s personal view on whether the government handled the response effectively or not, Americans deserve a detailed, factual account of how the virus spread and the scientific data used to determine things like school closures and mandatory vaccinations. Those measures caused severe consequences in our children’s mental health and academic achievement and led to forced job resignations, massive unemployment, and business closures. It is vital to our Nation’s emergency preparedness systems that the government take stock of what worked and what failed. The Subcommittee will also consider the efficacy of using millions of taxpayer dollars to fund relief programs and review the state and local government responses to better prepare for future pandemics.

In the order of business section, several new bills and resolutions must be presented to their respective committees. Placing these bills and resolutions in the rules package requires the Republican leadership to bring these matters up for a vote. Negotiating this in advance forces this Congress to at least consider and debate these topics. For example, one bill addresses rising gas prices by developing a plan to increase oil and gas production under leases of Federal lands. Another bill rescinds the funds made available to the Internal Revenue Service to hire 87,000 new IRS agents.

There are also two bills and a resolution that directly impact Christians and other pro-life constituents. One bill will prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions, and the other seeks to amend Title 18 of the United States Code, requiring a healthcare practitioner to exercise the proper degree of care for a child who survives an attempted abortion. A separate resolution “expresses the sense of Congress condemning the recent attacks on prolife facilities, groups, and churches.” The limitations on abortions and protecting children who survive — as well as respect for those who defend them — are clearly initiatives worth fighting for.

Finally, the resolution I find personally significant is establishing a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The recent release of the Twitter files seems to indicate that the FBI has abused its influence over social media companies to silence free speech. Several whistleblowers have also accused the FBI that it inflated the threat of domestic terrorism in order to investigate and harass political opponents of the current administration. As someone who worked with the FBI for decades, I find it disturbing that these sorts of accusations continue to circulate without proper review. A formal investigation by the Judiciary committee can restore the American people’s trust and prove that the country’s most powerful law enforcement agency is not above the laws put in place to limit their authority and protect the rights of citizens enshrined in our Constitution.

These concessions represent promises made on the campaign trail and how newly elected members of Congress intend to honor those commitments. So despite all the embarrassing infighting on the House floor, the obnoxious name-calling that the holdouts were engaged in blackmail, this battle was not about ego or immaturity. This fight was about holding our government accountable for the state of our economy, the alleged abuses of power, and how it will handle crises in the future. It even addressed what Congress intends to do about countries like China that seek to undermine our way of life. So what looked like chaos to spectators appears to be a calculated effort to set a clearly defined agenda. As Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) put it, “Here we front-loaded the turbulence, and I actually think it could result in better teamwork and a smoother flight for the 118th Congress.” Let's hope that is not just wishful thinking.

Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel.  She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.

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