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Moderate Republicans are preparing to flex their political muscles to ensure their newly-won but narrow House majority is not hijacked by conservative hard-liners from the Freedom Caucus who are looking to impose a new set of rules in 2023.

Rep. Dave Joyce, who leads the moderate 50-member Republican Governance Group, said there is a misconception that the Freedom Caucus will be able to dictate terms to House GOP leaders next year because of the slim majority Republicans will hold.

“They make the most noise, but as far as being productive that’s not necessarily true,” said Joyce, R-Ohio. “It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors.”

Joyce said his caucus was closely watching the internal debate over what the House rules will be next Congress and who will serve as speaker. He said some of his members were standing by and ready to serve as a counterweight to the Freedom Caucus if hard-liners start demanding too much.

REPUBLICANS GIVE MCCARTHY TIME TO STRIKE DEAL WITH HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS BEFORE FINAL SPEAKERSHIP VOTE

Rep. Dave Joyce said his caucus was closely watching the internal debate over what the House rules will be next Congress and who will serve as speaker.

Rep. Dave Joyce said his caucus was closely watching the internal debate over what the House rules will be next Congress and who will serve as speaker.
(Rep. Dave Joyce.  )

“I’m not out here pushing an agenda,” said Joyce. “We’re invested in ensuring that we don’t handcuff ourselves to a burning building before we even get the gavel. We’re the majority-makers.”

Republicans won’t take power in the House of Representatives until January. But since appearing to win the majority last week, the Freedom Caucus has moved to exert concessions from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as a condition for supporting his bid to be speaker.

HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS WANTS OPTION OF REMOVING THE SPEAKER AS PRICE FOR GIVING MCCARTHY THE GAVEL

The hard-liners feel emboldened because of the narrow majority Republicans are poised to hold. At the low end, the GOP could wind up with a 218-seat majority, the bare minimum needed to control the House. If Republicans sweep all outstanding races, including some in which Democrats are favored, the majority could reach as high as 226 seats.

Freedom Caucus members say that narrow majority gives them leverage, since their support will be needed to pass bills.

Republicans would not officially take control of the House of Representatives until January. 

Republicans would not officially take control of the House of Representatives until January. 
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

“Everyone’s vote matters to a far greater degree than at any other time,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. “Right now, any five people for any reason or no reason at all can determine that they have veto power.”

Freedom Caucus members will also be needed to secure McCarthy’s position as speaker. McCarthy will need 218 votes to take Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s job, and within the GOP, 31 members voted against McCarthy’s nomination.

The Freedom Caucus, which boasts more than 40 members, is demanding an overhaul of House rules in exchange for giving McCarthy its support. The group says its goal is to curtail the powers of the House speaker to empower individual members.

For example, the Freedom Caucus wants to restore an arcane rule allowing any lawmaker to call for a vote on removing the speaker at any time from the House floor. It wants to ensure that a floor vote is given to any amendment if at least 10% of the GOP conference is in support.

Other rules changes deal with instituting a “majority of the majority” rule, which would require that a majority of the GOP conference supports a bill before it advances to a floor vote. Hard-liners are also pushing for committee chairmen to be appointed by the members of their individual panels, rather than leadership.

Kevin McCarthy won his party's leadership position on Tuesday by a 188-31 vote after a last-minute challenge.

Kevin McCarthy won his party’s leadership position on Tuesday by a 188-31 vote after a last-minute challenge.
(AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Some would further like to see budget bills go through committees, instead of being combined with other pieces of legislation by leadership and sent directly to the House floor.

“There is a top-down driven program here in Washington, D.C., where leadership calls all the shots,” said Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa. “We want to see some fundamental changes to how Congress operates.”

MCCARTHY WINS GOP NOMINATION FOR HOUSE SPEAKER

Moderate Republicans say that some proposed rule changes are a non-starter, like making it easier to remove a speaker. That sets up an internal GOP fight over that policy and others if the Freedom Caucus keeps pushing for them.

“Frequent leadership overhauls would erode House Republicans’ ability to deliver a common sense, conservative vision and meaningful results for the American people,” said Minnesota Rep. Pete Stauber, who serves as co-chair of the centrist Republican Main Street Caucus.

The hard-line Freedom Caucus feels emboldened because of the narrow majority Republicans are poised to hold.

The hard-line Freedom Caucus feels emboldened because of the narrow majority Republicans are poised to hold.
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call)

Moderates have proposed a compromise under which a vote to remove the speaker could be put onto the House floor if a majority of the Republican Conference agrees. They have also signaled opposition to efforts to change the way committee chairmen are selected, noting that there are term limits already in place to ensure accountability.

Other moderates worry that preventing budget bills from being combined would weigh down the legislative calendar and prevent vital, but perhaps, controversial measures from moving forward. This includes military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and raising the cap on how much the federal government can borrow to meet expenses.

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Moderate Republicans have largely kept quiet in recent days, opting to give the Freedom Caucus a chance to voice its opinions in hopes of deescalating tensions. They bristle, though, at the idea that GOP hardliners want to dictate the agenda for the next Congress, especially if it means adopting initiatives they see as politically dangerous.

“A lot of mainstream Republicans have been quiet so far because we know the process has to play out,” said one centrist GOP lawmaker. “But if it gets to a point where we’re heading over a cliff, then I think a lot of us will be forced to step in, after all, anyone can exert leverage if the majority is small.”

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