A revolt from conservatives thrust the House floor into a state of limbo Wednesday, with leaders forced to delay a second try at advancing a rule GOP rebels shot down one day earlier.
The office of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) scheduled a vote for Wednesday at 12:20 p.m. on a rule to advance four bills related to gas stoves and regulatory reform. But when that time rolled around, leadership was forced to recess the chamber as the talks to break the impasse continued.
The path forward is unclear.
When the House went into recess, the office of House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) advised members that “multiple vote series are possible” in the chamber Wednesday.
And shortly before noon, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters it is the House GOP’s intention to hold votes Wednesday.
“We’re talking through it; I think we’ll get through it,” he said when asked about the standoff, later adding, “I’m not worried about the rule.”
Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) heads to the House Chamber for a series of votes on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.
But Scalise, when asked whether there could be another vote on the rule on Wednesday, said just after 1 p.m. that he is “not ready to make that decision yet.”
Conservatives are still incensed at the debt limit compromise deal McCarthy struck with President Biden that got more votes from Democrats than Republicans, though two-thirds of the GOP conference voted for the bill.
A group of 20 “concerned” conservatives met among themselves Wednesday morning to discuss their issues with leadership, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told The Hill. But the major hurdle to reaching some agreement appears to be a big one: The conservatives haven’t named any demands and are still deciding what they should be.
“I don’t know,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said when asked what he is looking for in order to break the impasse and move legislation on the floor again. “The Speaker formed a coalition with Democrats to get us a $4 trillion national debt. And I continued to be concerned because he hasn’t repudiated that coalition. And my guess is he’s prepared to do that again on the next three must-pass bills: Farm Bill, NDAA, and the budget.”
“We’re looking for concrete things that are going to be done,” Norman said. When asked to elaborate, he responded, “well, that’s in process now.”
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He said the group knows “a couple of things” they are requesting, but could not detail them because they have not been agreed to by the group.
Biggs would not say whether he plans to vote against every rule until there is a satisfactory conclusion, or if Tuesday’s rule takedown by a group of 11 conservatives, including Biggs and Norman, was a one-off.
Tuesday’s floor drama appears to have been a spur-of-the-moment decision. Biggs said it was “rather organic,” and Norman said it was a “spontaneous group” who voted against the rule on the floor.
It marked an embarrassing rebuke to McCarthy and a stunning scene on the House floor, when Scalise and Emmer huddled with more than a dozen conservatives in the back of the chamber in a tense effort to get them to flip their positions. In the end, Scalise joined the conservatives in opposing the rule, a procedural move that allows him to bring the measure to the floor again in the future. The final vote was 206-220.
It was the first time since 2002 that a rule vote failed on the floor.
Part of the conservative fury from conservatives stemmed from Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) alleging that GOP leadership threatened to keep his bill from coming to the floor if he voted against the rule for the debt limit bill last week. Scalise said Tuesday morning before the failed rule vote that he had discussed with Clyde that his bill to repeal a federal rule banning pistol braces did not yet have the support to pass in the House.
McCarthy addressed the dispute to reporters on Wednesday, appearing to subtly put blame on Scalise.
“The Majority Leader runs the floor. And yesterday was started on something else,” McCarthy said. “It was a conversation that the majority leader had with Clyde, and I think it was a miscalculation or misinterpretation of what one said to the other. And that’s what started this, and then something else bellowed into it.”
Because of the slim majority in the House, GOP leadership can only afford to lose a handful of members on partisan votes.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., center, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., left., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, right, attend an unveiling ceremony for the Congressional statue of Willa Cather, in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Willa Cather was one of the country’s most beloved authors, writing about the Great Plains and the spirit of America. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Norman on Wednesday said there is a lack of confidence in McCarthy and GOP leadership.
“There’s a lack of confidence … with the Speaker and leadership,” Norman told The Hill. “And we told him that, we told him this yesterday.”
He pointed to the differences between the Biden-McCarthy debt limit agreement and the bill House Republicans passed in April to raise the borrowing limit.
“There’s a lack of confidence with having the bill end up so different. We thought we had a bill that was pretty much the minimum and what ended up, pretty much everything was stripped out for the most part. And we talked about the appropriations bills. Most of us are for the gas stove bill that we have on the floor, but it’s just a total frustration and lack of confidence,” he said.
McCarthy put an optimistic spin on the impasse.
“Tension only makes you stronger. Conflict makes you stronger if you deal with it,” McCarthy said. “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.”
“I don’t think [the rule] going down is a bad thing. I don’t think not winning on the first vote for Speaker is a bad thing,” McCarthy said, referring to his historic 15-ballot Speaker election after facing opposition from many of the same people who sunk the rule. “Do you all think that’s terrible? Everything has to go perfect? I actually like to change things on its head. I want to watch Washington be different than it was before because I don’t think it was working.”
Mike Lillis contributed. Updated at 1:30 p.m.