House GOP leadership is up against about a dozen Republicans who are sour from the debt limit deal and now holding out on voting with the conference until they see change from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
The holdouts, most of whom are in the House Freedom Caucus, voted against a preliminary rule for a bill to prohibit gas stove bans on Tuesday and some from the group indicated well into Wednesday afternoon that they would continue to vote against the rule, effectively stalling the GOP agenda indefinitely while they negotiate with leadership.
The last time a rule vote failed was about 20 years ago.
“This is all about restoring a process that will fundamentally change things back to what was working,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), one of the holdouts, said on Tuesday after the vote.
Roy, one of the most vocal members of the group, is seeking what his office describes as an “amendable power arrangement” with McCarthy after Roy and others say McCarthy has not lived up to his side of the bargain made during the historic 15-ballot speaker race in January.
Concern also exists among the group of hardliners that critical upcoming bills, such as the annual defense spending bill and expiring farm bill, will pass the way the debt ceiling increase bill did, i.e., with a majority of support from not just Republicans but also Democrats at the expense of holding the line on certain conservative priorities.
Rep. Andy Biggs, center, joined from left by Reps. Michael Cloud, Bob Good, Chip Roy, Ralph Norman, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, speaks as members of the House Freedom Caucus hold a news conference in Washington, March 10, 2023. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Roy, as well as Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), both of whom did not vote to tank Tuesday’s vote, could be seen heading into McCarthy’s office Wednesday as talks between Freedom Caucus members and the speaker remained ongoing.
“I always think tension only makes you stronger. Conflict makes you stronger,” McCarthy told reporters that afternoon.
“If I would shy away from this, I wouldn’t want to do this job. I enjoy this work. I enjoy this job. I enjoy this conflict, but at the end of the day, the one thing I tell the American public, ‘I’m never gonna give up on you,’” McCarthy continued. “I get pushed on both sides. I’m gonna find the very best for America.”
One specific issue that had prompted controversy between the two GOP factions was with a bill led by Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) to block a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) restriction on pistol braces.
Clyde claimed that leadership had “threatened” him over the rule vote for the debt ceiling bill, telling him that his bill would not come to the floor if he did not vote for the rule.
Both Clyde and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), who is responsible for managing what bills come to the floor, have since confirmed Clyde’s bill will now come to the floor next week.
Scalise told reporters Wednesday of Clyde’s bill, “It’s important that it passes, and there’s clearly been some vote concerns going back the last few months that we’ve been working on along the way.”
Clyde, for his part, condemned the use of Second Amendment rights as a “bargaining chip” but later indicated he had since had “positive conversations” with leadership about getting his bill to the floor.
Scalise also said more broadly that conversations among the conference remained ongoing and that there was “obviously a lot of work left to do” before he would be able to bring up another vote on the floor.