As details emerged from Kevin McCarthy’s private handshake deal with the so-called Taliban 20—the hardline conservatives who initially refused to support his bid for House Speaker—there were, inevitably, some Republicans who were outraged by what he had presumably traded away without their knowledge. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who had referred to the anti-Kevins as “terrorists” during negotiations last week, abstained from voting on the House Rules package. Rep. Nancy Mace blasted the deal for being “crafted in private,” before changing her tune after receiving her own private briefing. Others went a step further: “I’m a no,” tweeted Rep. Tony Gonzales, casting his vote with the Democrats—a vote that was received on the right, even among people who had opposed McCarthy, as a deeper betrayal.
The problem wasn’t the text of the rules package itself, which is transformative but anodyne among Republicans, but rather the content of McCarthy’s secret promises to the MAGA caucus. Sure, there was the high-profile “motion to vacate” concession and the requirement that bills introduced to the floor contain a single legislative subject. There were promises to open MAGA-stoking investigations, such as a counter probe into the January 6th Committee, and an overall, Church Committee-style examination into the “weaponization” of the federal government against conservatives.
Of course, a handshake deal is only as reliable as the people attached to it. Will far-right members like Eli Crane and Anna Paulina Luna actually get committee assignments? (Rep. Byron Donalds, who was among the alternative Speaker candidates, was placed on the powerful Steering Committee, and will help determine who gets placed where.) What exactly will the Church-style committee look like, and who will chair it? Will leadership commit real time and energy to the Never Kevins’ various pet projects, or will they be treated as more shiny objects for the MAGA crew?