A historic vote late Friday finally secured the speakership of the U.S. House for a California Republican, but the path getting there could reshape congressional action for years to come. Two dozen reform-minded conservatives forced major concessions that will shift the balance of power away from the D.C. establishment for the first time in decades.

It was not supposed to happen. The election of U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the nation’s 55th speaker of the House was preordained by the insider fundraising machine that dominates every aspect of D.C. culture. It is a culture that has put protection of the 435 denizens of the chamber—and especially the demigods in the parties’ leadership—ahead of the good of the nation.

Recent reporting on the obscene profits made as part of the—legal—insider trading common among lawmakers has only re-enforced the need for systemic reform within Congress itself if there is to be any hope of restoring constitutional principles to the government at large.

It became clear to 20 reform-focused members of the U.S. House that the only way to shake the grip of the cronies’ control of Congress was to shake up the operations. Among these members were three Texans: U.S. Reps. Chip Roy and Michael Cloud, and U.S. Rep.-elect Keith Self.

“I came to Washington with the understanding that Congress was broken and in desperate need of restoration,” explained Cloud of his actions. “For several months, we have had good faith negotiations with Republican leadership and members to make the generational change needed in Congress to restore the ability of members to represent the People and put our nation on the path toward fiscal responsibility.”

They were not trying to change who would be the speaker; they were trying to change the rules governing the chamber. The goal was not to force the passage of legislation, but to give fair hearings to the policy proposals that have long been supported by citizens … and ignored by the “uniparty” of the Washington beltway.

The swamp does not readily allow itself to be drained.

“I want the tools or I want the leadership to stop the swamp from running over the average American every single day,” said Roy from the floor of the U.S. House.

That sentiment was echoed by Cloud in a statement on Friday. “The reforms we’ve negotiated won’t fix everything wrong with Washington. However, it will be a massive change in how the House operates and enables Members of Congress to truly represent their constituents.”

Through it, McCarthy negotiated and conceded. The resulting changes put McCarthy in a speakership that is weaker, perhaps, than it has been in a decade—but they put him in a position to preside over the implementation of very popular policies.

“Because of the 20 brave conservatives, the D.C. cartel in the House was brought to its knees before the American people,” said Russ Vought, of the Center for Renewing America. “This is the new paradigm-coalition government.”

Vought explained that the negotiated changes to the rules will provide independence from chamber leadership “not seen in 60 years.”

Most notable is the creation of a committee that will operate “with full authority and resources” to investigate and hold accountable a federal government that has been weaponized against the citizenry,” added Vought. Other reforms include votes putting the country on a path (finally) to balanced budgets, as well as education reforms and setting the terms for the 2023 debt limit fight.

Making clear the speakership was going to be different. Early Saturday morning, Speaker McCarthy announced the first legislation he will tackle is the repeal of funding for 87,000 new IRS agents given to the Biden administration in the waning days of the Democrats’ control of the House.

The swamp isn’t happy.

Texas Congressman Tony Gonzales tweeted that despite his unflagging support for McCarthy as speaker, he is not pleased with the concessions made to open up the processes of the House.

“I am a NO on the house rules package. Welcome to the 118th Congress,” Gonzales posted to social media.

Clearly there are those—like Gonzales—who (rightly) see the proposed rules neutering the speakership in regards to centralized control. Yet it also clears the way for McCarthy to be the hero Americans want. Rather than wield the speakership for corrupt purposes, like his most recent predecessor, McCarthy could gavel in the Republicans’ long-promised reforms.

Vought said none of this would be possible without those congressmen who “defined the art of the possible.”

Future congressmen have seen a basic truth: Fighting is the most necessary component of winning. 

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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