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Republicans defeat another rule in House over spending deal

New speaker has now lost nearly as many procedural votes as his predecessor

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., talks with reporters after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in on Wednesday.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., talks with reporters after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A dozen Republicans joined House Democrats to vote down a rule for floor debate on unrelated legislation Wednesday out of anger over Speaker Mike Johnson’s budget accord with Democratic leaders and lack of movement on border restrictions.

The vote on the rule was 203-216, with 13 Republican “no” votes, though one, from Blake D. Moore of Utah, was simply a procedural move so the chamber could reconsider the rule at a later time. 

Johnson, R-La., was seen in heated discussions during the vote with lawmakers including GOP Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, with lots of finger-pointing. Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., were seen defending Johnson. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good, R-Va., and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., were also part of the conversations.

The rule would have allowed two Congressional Review Act resolutions disapproving rules from the National Labor Relations Board and Federal Highway Administration, as well as a bill related to government payments into settlement agreements, to come to the floor. But the objections had little to do with the substance of the legislation.

Conservatives have been demanding border restrictions as part of any final spending deal for fiscal 2024, and have blasted the new topline spending limits Johnson agreed to with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., over the weekend.

“It had nothing to do with the particular issues, but it has something to do with if we’re not going to fight for the most important thing in this country … to save our republic, which is stop the flow of immigration,” said Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C.

Norman, who voted for the rule in committee on Tuesday before reversing himself Wednesday, said he was planning to speak with Johnson after the vote.

“No border? No spending,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., another of the 13 “no” votes, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Perry, the former House Freedom Caucus chairman, said the topline deal would allow for more spending than the omnibus package enacted last December under the control of Democrats and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“We’re funding government above the Pelosi level,” Perry said. “And we’ve got no policy changes for it. Like, why am I for that? I voted against that the December before last, now all of a sudden I’m for it?”

Perry said the situation needs to be “resolved” before he votes for more rules, but he said he wasn’t involved in any effort to oust Johnson the way another group led the effort to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

It was the second rule that’s gone down to defeat under Johnson’s tenure, after a rule in November that would have allowed debate on the fiscal 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill as well as an Iranian asset freeze bill.

The beginning of the end for McCarthy came last June, when Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives started voting against unrelated rules for floor debate in protest over the debt limit deal that set the initial fiscal 2024 spending numbers. 

House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, eventually wrote that chamber’s appropriations bills below the higher funding levels conservatives objected to, but it wasn’t enough. 

Two rules governing appropriations bills were defeated in one week in September, and then McCarthy put a stopgap funding patch on the floor under suspension of the rules — bypassing a rule vote, which needs substantial Democratic support. Shortly after, members of his party’s right flank voted in favor of a motion to vacate McCarthy’s speakership, sending the party into a weekslong battle over who would become the next speaker.

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