Hard-right House conservatives derailed legislation scheduled for floor votes Tuesday in a rebuke to GOP leadership.
A group of House Republicans bucked their party to vote against a rule devised by GOP leaders to take up legislation that included measures to rein in the federal regulatory process and the Biden administration’s ability to restrict gas stoves in particular. The rule was defeated on a 206-220 vote, as 11 GOP defectors joined all Democrats in opposition.
Another GOP “no” vote was Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., though he switched his vote in a procedural ploy to be able to bring the rule up again for consideration at a later date.
The dissenting Republicans said the vote was intended to signal their frustration with GOP leadership for cutting a deal last week on the debt limit they opposed. They also said leaders backtracked on a pledge to schedule a floor vote on gun rights legislation.
“We got rolled. It was a bad deal,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, referring to the debt limit package. “We warned them not to cut that deal without coming down and sitting down and talk[ing] to us. So this is all about restoring a process that will fundamentally, you know, change things back to what was working.”
Roy said the Republican conference headed by Speaker Kevin McCarthy must now decide how it will operate. “Is it going to be by consensus or is it going to be fiat?” he asked.
The surprise defeat of the House Republicans’ rule, typically adopted on a party-line vote, underscored the threat to McCarthy’s speakership as he tries to govern with a razor-thin majority.
It was the first defeat of a House rule on the floor since 2002, according to C-SPAN’s Howard Mortman. At that time, anti-abortion Republicans rebelled against bankruptcy overhaul legislation over language Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., helped author that would bar protesters at abortion clinics from declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying court-ordered fines and judgments.
Conservative unease toward McCarthy was evident in January, when it took 15 rounds of voting before a speaker was elected.
To woo support from his party’s right flank, McCarthy had agreed to let any single member challenge his speakership at any time with a motion to oust him that would be guaranteed a floor vote. After the debt limit deal angered members of the Freedom Caucus last week, there was some chatter about considering using that power, but members said they were unlikely to do so immediately.
On the rule for floor debate on the debt limit bill last week, 29 Republicans voted “no,” and the measure only advanced after Democrats supplied the needed votes.
One of those “no” votes was Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., who said as a result leadership thwarted his measure to block a Biden administration rule to strengthen regulations on firearms with stabilizing braces. The House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation in April.
“I was threatened that if I voted against the closed rule to the debt ceiling agreement, it would be very difficult to bring my pistol stabilizing brace bill to the House floor for a vote,” Clyde, a gun store owner, said on Tuesday. “Over the last few days, I have had several positive conversations with leadership about getting a vote on my bill next week, and it is my intention to hold them to that commitment.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said he voted against the rule Tuesday because of how Clyde was treated.
“We’re not going to live in a system where our members are subject to this type of petty punishment,” Gaetz said. “Rendering that kind of punishment is … debasing.”
Clyde later tweeted that he won a commitment from House GOP leaders to put his pistol braces bill on the floor next Tuesday.
But the broader issue of how to move forward as a conference on legislation was still unresolved as of late Tuesday. A group of Freedom Caucus members huddled with McCarthy and other GOP leaders for over an hour, after which lawmakers said there was still no agreement to bring Tuesday’s rule back up for a vote.
Roy wouldn’t comment on what was discussed in the meeting and characterized discussions as ongoing.
“We’re trying to continue to have a conversation. You know, today was … the product of breaking from what was working, and now we’re trying to get back to what was working,” Roy told reporters. “Again, this is all about trying to achieve the objective the American people sent us here to achieve, and that’s to actually restrain spending.”
House Financial Services Chairman Patrick T. McHenry, who helped negotiate the debt limit package, told reporters that conservatives’ concerns over the deal’s spending levels played a role in Tuesday’s breakdown.
“In a narrow majority, individual members have an outsized power,” McHenry, R-N.C., said, pointing out that just five GOP defections on a party-line vote can sink a bill. “Five members can have a really powerful role in this House.”
Ryan Tarinelli, Caitlin Reilly and Aidan Quigley contributed to this report.