Majority Whip Tom Emmer Op-Ed: Seven-month crash course on how House Republicans delivered in the 118th Congress
Washington, August 8, 2023
By Majority Whip Tom Emmer (MN-06)
The 118th Congress and Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s new House Republican majority have defied all the odds and outperformed all expectations.
In the first seven months, we passed 50 bills — including legislation to affirm parents’ rights to be involved in their child’s education, secure the border, bolster American energy production, responsibly raise the debt ceiling despite no one believing we could, provide for the needs of service members and their families, maintain America’s gold standard in aviation, and fully fund veterans care and benefits.
Each of these were commonsense pieces of legislation that protect and improve the lives of hardworking Americans. Perhaps that explains why 39 of the bills had bipartisan support.
These are incredible numbers from a razor-thin majority with a first-term speaker, seeing as Republicans still only control one-half of one-third of our federal government.
So, how did this happen?
Recalling January, when the speaker’s race took five days and 15 votes, the national news media was saying things like: “These House Republicans can’t even run a one-car parade. How are they going to govern?”
Well, contrary to what they were saying and what others were thinking, I thought the speaker’s race was one of the greatest experiences in the recent history of our republic.
For the last 100 years, the personal dynamics of speakers’ races have taken place behind closed doors. Just two years earlier, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to create faux leadership positions and give plush committee assignments to the members who threatened to unseat her.
This year, the speaker’s race was out in the open for all to see — the good, the bad and the ugly. In the end, not only did that experience elect Kevin McCarthy speaker of the House, it also started the process of bringing House Republicans together as a team.
You see, just because you put a group of people on the field all wearing the same jersey, it doesn’t mean you have a team. Consider the speaker’s race as the first day of practice for a new team.
The members need to run into each other. They need to challenge one another. They don’t have to like each other. They just have to respect and trust each other.
That was the beginning, and with each week, House Republicans under Mr. McCarthy’s leadership just keep getting better.
HR 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act
Now that our team had some practice under our belts, we were ready for our first game of the season: passing our signature legislation to tackle inflation. Lowering prices starts with an all-of-the-above energy approach, and that’s exactly what the Lower Energy Costs Act was about.
It lowers costs for families by restoring American energy dominance and reducing the bureaucratic red tape that has stifled energy and infrastructure projects for far too long.
Passing the Lower Energy Costs Act was a bottom-up process. Our conference spent many hours coming together and debating ideas that would finally bring Americans the economic relief they were pleading for.
The work we put in as a team resulted in a monumental, bipartisan victory, with four House Democrats and more than 100 key stakeholders coming out in support of the bill.
HR 2, the Secure the Border Act
Another key tenet of House Republicans’ agenda was to address the chaos at our southern border. Once again, the talking heads in Washington insisted we wouldn’t get it done.
“It is our third ‘first big test,’” we joked in light of the news media’s constant skepticism of our undefeated track record.
But just like the speaker’s race and the Lower Energy Costs Act, House Republicans beat the odds to deliver the most comprehensive border security bill since 1996.
Like every other piece of legislation, it was thanks to our members being willing to get in a room, hash out their concerns, and rally around legislation that secures our border and gets the Biden administration’s inhumane crisis under control.
Next up was the most anticipated showdown of the season yet: the debt ceiling. Every member of our conference agreed that the key to addressing our nation’s $32 trillion in debt is reining in Washington’s reckless spending.
So, we took the lead in passing a debt ceiling solution early on, forcing President Biden to the negotiating table.
House Republicans’ leadership on the issue resulted in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, a bipartisan debt ceiling deal that saves taxpayers $2.1 trillion. The whip’s office started hosting listening sessions on the debt ceiling as early as February, which allowed every member of the team to have their voice heard and their input considered.
The ideas garnered from these sessions resulted in the creation and passage of House Republicans’ Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, and, ultimately, the debt ceiling conversation ended with the largest legislative savings in our nation’s history.
More commonsense wins
These haven’t been the only times our commonsense agenda has defied expectations over the last seven months. House Republicans continued bringing Mr. Biden and the Democrats along as we governed on issues like ending the COVID national emergency and overturning some of the D.C. City Council’s pro-crime policies.
But the job is far from over, and we will continue to work to bring common sense back to the nation’s capital through meaningful legislation.
If the last seven months have affirmed anything for me, it’s that championships aren’t won in a day and winning teams aren’t built on the first day of practice. Our House Republican majority has worked hard over the first half of the year to become a great team, and we’ve had a lot of success.
As with every team, we’ve had to learn how to work together. We’ve had some growing pains along the way, and I expect we will experience more challenges as we improve as a team.
At the end of the day, I’m confident we will continue to rally around what’s best for the American people. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in our first seven months, and I look forward to what we’re going to accomplish going forward.