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House Republicans Adopt New Rules to Govern Themselves (and the Indicted)

Rule changes are timely, given GOP has two indicted members on its hands

House Republicans adopted rules to strip indicted members from committee and leadership roles in the next Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Republicans adopted rules to strip indicted members from committee and leadership roles in the next Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans in leadership positions in the next Congress will have to abdicate their positions if they announce a run for higher office. The GOP conference adopted their internal rules for the 116th Congress Thursday, including the proposal on leadership from New York Rep. Elise Stefanik.

The provision from Stefanik would preclude the situation that Rep. Luke Messer was in last year, when he served as the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee while also running for the Senate.

Leadership roles can be launching pads for members to run for governor or the Senate, but that divides the member’s attention. Stefanik exited the meeting in high spirits, saying that the only two amendments adopted were hers and a proposal from Alaska’s Rep. Don Young.

Young’s proposal was tailored to a specific constituency — himself. His amendment will allow the dean of the House to serve on the Republican Steering Committee, provided he or she is a Republican. Young is the dean, the title ascribed to the longest-serving House member.

The Republican conference gathered in Longworth over lunch to discuss and vote on the rules proposals. Retiring members and those who lost their elections last week were present, but not permitted to vote. Fresh-faced members-elect got a chance to voice their views on the rules they’ll serve under beginning in January.

The rules package adopted by Republicans includes official penalties for members facing serious legal trouble. The rules change would require any GOP member facing indictment “for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed” to “submit his or her resignation from any such committees to the House promptly.” The rules would also apply to any House Republican leadership, requiring them to “step aside” if indicted for a felony. Republican lawmakers will vote on the rules package this week.

When asked how the rules would impact the two House Republicans already facing indictment, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he wasn’t sure yet. New York’s Chris Collins and California’s Duncan Hunter were both indicted in August.

The group rejected a proposal from Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher that would have shifted the power to choose committee chairmen toward the members and away from leadership, allowing committee members to pick their own chairmen or ranking members. Three amendments floated by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows were not considered by the group. The North Carolina Republican popped in and out of the meeting looking for “someone more expert than me,” to answer a question that had arisen.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report. 

Watch: Senate Republicans Talk Leadership Team and Special Counsel Protections

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