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A GOP-led House can shape the agenda for 2024: Here’s how

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
Greg Nash
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) addresses reporters following the House Republican Leadership Election for the 118th session of Congress on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

Their winning margin was nowhere near what House Republicans had hoped for and expected but the GOP did win a clear majority of seats and will have control of one House of Congress for at least the next two years. 

What does this mean and what will Republicans do with this newly regained power? 

For starters, of course, Republicans will have the ability to block, modify or delay the Biden legislative agenda. They will also have the power to oversee and investigate virtually every nook, cranny and department of the executive branch. How they choose to assert these powers will determine their governmental and legislative success.   

From the outset, Republicans must demonstrate they are ready for prime time and, with due credit to my late friend, columnist Jimmy Breslin, show they are not the gang that can’t shoot straight. 

On day one, Jan. 3, Republicans must elect the Speaker of the House. The Republican Conference has voted its strong support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to be Speaker by an overwhelming 188-31 vote. Unlike other party leadership positions though, such as majority leader and whip, where the party vote is conclusive, the Speaker must receive the majority of votes of the full House membership on the House floor on the first day of the session. The rationale is that the Speaker represents the entire House, not just one political party.  

This means that just a literal handful of GOP malcontents could prevent McCarthy from receiving 218 votes and becoming Speaker unless he accedes to their demands. These demands could involve rule changes allowing a vote of confidence on McCarthy at any time during his term of office or weakening his power regarding committee assignments. Such changes would give a minority within the party a virtual veto over the Speaker and guarantee instability if not chaos. To get things done, the Speaker must be strong and not have to always be looking over his right shoulder.

A Republican Congress must forget about using threats of a government shutdown to get its legislative way. Whenever Republicans have tried this, such as against Bill Clinton,  it initially excites the party base but then backfires among the general public.

While voters accept partisanship fights on most domestic issues, they look for honest debate leading toward consensus on issues of foreign policy and national security. Republicans must reject the mindless call to reduce aid to Ukraine by those trivializing the threat of Russian aggression by equating it with crossings at the U.S. Southern border. Foreign policy positions cannot be based on inane red meat sound bites.

Republicans must come forward with serious proposals on hot-button- and very critical issues, such as illegal immigration, violent crime and inflation. They must not be afraid to work with Democrats when there is an opportunity for bipartisan agreement and not be scared off by Trump threats from the sidelines.

Investigations on Hunter Biden, the Afghanistan withdrawal, the politicization of the FBI and the origins of COVID are critical and necessary. They must be carried out judiciously and without hysterics or overreach. Americans are tired of endless investigations and will quickly lose interest if what should be serious inquiries descend into juvenile food fights.

Voters have entrusted Republicans with great responsibility at a critical time in our history. For the good of the nation and their own political success Republicans must carry out this responsibility with a seriousness of purpose and coherent thought. History will be their judge.

Peter King was the U.S. representative of New York’s 2nd and 3rd congressional districts for 28 years, including serving as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Follow him on Twitter @RepPeteKing.

Tags 2022 midterm elections Hunter Biden Hunter Biden probe Kevin McCarthy Politics of the United States Republican voters Ukraine aid

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