Representatives Kevin McCarthy, elected majority leader, and Steve
Scalise, elected majority whip, will be under pressure to make good
on promises to give rank-and-file Republicans more say over
legislation they bring to the floor for votes.
That is likely to mean a tougher negotiating line with Senate
Democrats over spending issues, and bills that are more in line with
"It opens the door for another fiscal standoff," said Chris Krueger,
a former Republican House staffer now with Guggenheim Securities in
Washington. "Ronald Reagan could be the whip and you're still going
to have a hard time passing bills this summer."
Conservatives have vented frustration with what they say has been a
tendency by House Speaker John Boehner and outgoing Majority Leader
Eric Cantor to craft legislation behind closed doors.
They have also been angered by instances when leadership has brought
bills to the floor without the support of a majority of Republicans
and passed them largely with Democratic votes. A measure to provide
relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy and a deal to end a
government shutdown last October were two such instances.
Boehner has struggled to tamp down rebellions from Tea Party
conservatives, whose demands for smaller government have led to
fights over shutdowns and potential debt defaults.
Tea Party lawmakers will keep up the pressure on Boehner. Some said
the election of Scalise, a conservative from Louisiana, would not be
enough to meet their demands for greater representation in
With the risk of possible challenges to leadership in a fresh vote
after the November elections, Boehner, McCarthy and Scalise will
have to work hard to keep their conservative wing satisfied if they
want to remain in their jobs.
The new leadership team immediately faces a series of upcoming
legislative deadlines, including replenishment of the Highway Trust
Fund, which will run out of money for new highway construction
projects by late August.
House Republicans have ruled out an increase in federal fuel taxes
but have failed to agree on other ways to find the $19 billion
needed to pay for highway projects over the next year. Proposals
have included savings from ending Saturday U.S. mail deliveries and
revenue gained by allowing companies to repatriate profits at a
lower tax rate.
Democrats have proposed closing some corporate tax breaks to raise
highway funds, a move that has been resisted by both moderate and
conservative Republicans. If a deal cannot be reached, delays for
new projects could start by August and all federal highway funding
could stop by Sept. 30
[to top of second column]
Congress also must resolve disputes over annual spending bills
needed to keep government agencies open past the Sept. 30 fiscal
year-end. Republican House-passed versions of some of these measures
contain significant cuts to transportation grants and housing
subsidies, which Senate Democrats want to reverse.
A further tilt to the right would be "palpable" next year if
Republicans win control of the Senate and increase their House
majority, said Representative John Fleming, a Louisiana
conservative. Another extension of the federal debt limit that is
needed by March 31, 2015, would require cuts to benefit programs
such as Medicare and Social Security, he said.
"We're going to be sending the president legislation and putting it
on his desk for signature that has the kind of reforms the American
people demand," Fleming said.
Immigration reform legislation is all but dead in the House. Tea
Party candidate David Brat defeated Cantor, in part by attacking him
for his openness to legal status for some children brought to the
United States illegally by their parents. Brat's upset victory is
likely to further spook Republicans who might be inclined to support
Representative Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House
Budget Committee, said he believed the Republican leadership
reshuffle would add up to less compromise.
"I fear that the situation in the House has grown even more
difficult because the signal that was sent to the House Republican
caucus by Congressman Eric Cantorís defeat was, ĎDonít even whisper
about compromise on these big national issues,'" Van Hollen said.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson and Susan Cornwell;
Editing by Caren Bohan and Ken Wills)
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