With two House seats still up in the air after the midterm election, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) -- who hopes to take the Speaker's gavel from Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) -- faces the prospect of a very small majority as he prepares to enact his agenda after waiting in the wings.
However, as the Wall Street Journal reports, McCarthy -- providing his caucus lines up behind him and votes him in as Speaker -- could prove to not only be difficult to manage, but could also create additional problems for him if he makes a major voting rule change he has previously sought.
At issue is McCarthy's objection to the proxy-voting by lawmakers that grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic when lawmakers stayed away due to health concerns.
As the Journal reported almost a year ago, "The House voted in May 2020 to approve a Democratic proposal to allow proxy voting. At the time, Republicans objected and took the matter to court, arguing it was unconstitutional to vote by proxy and that lawmakers should come to work like employees in healthcare and schools. Democrats said the rule was necessary to operate safely at a time when health officials recommended minimizing in-person contact."
For his part, McCarthy appealed to the Supreme Court to ban proxy voting only to be rebuffed.
Now, with the help of his caucus, he may fulfill his dream to eliminate it -- but it could come back to haunt him.
"With little wiggle room, party leaders will need the support of nearly every Republican to propel partisan legislation, giving each member more leverage to alter or block proposals," the Journal's Katy Steck Ferek wrote.
However, "Down the road, deaths or incapacitating illnesses could further narrow the majority, particularly as Republicans move to end remote proxy voting, a Covid-19 related measure that the GOP opposed. Leaders will also need to keep departures to a minimum, given the party’s narrow advantage, as House seats typically go unfilled for months after a death or resignation," she wrote before adding, "He will need the support of almost every Republican to win the speaker race in early January, assuming all Democrats are opposed. Already, a handful of Republicans have said they won’t back him, injecting uncertainty into the outcome."
"The narrow margin also means that GOP leaders will need to keep a close eye on their numbers. Mr. McCarthy has pledged to do away with proxy voting, which enabled Democratic leaders to pass bills even when many members were sick, worried about Covid risks or otherwise absent. Resignations are typical in any Congress, and at least one House lawmaker has died during every two-year legislative session of Congress during the past two decades," the Journal report continues. "In 2022 alone, Reps. Jim Hagedorn, Don Young and Jackie Walorski died in office. Six other House members resigned, including to take other politically appointed positions. Since 1997, 37 House elected lawmakers have died either in or before taking office."
You can read more here.