WASHINGTON — A band of 11 House conservative rabble-rousers took the rare step Tuesday of joining all Democrats to block a pair of GOP bills to protect gas stoves to express their anger over the debt deal cut by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.
The procedural vote was rejected 206 to 220, stunning longtime lawmakers and reporters who have not seen a rule vote — a procedural measure typically widely supported by the majority party — go down in more than two decades.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, along with a conservative ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., gathered on the steps of the Capitol after the voting to rail at how McCarthy, R-Calif., and his leadership team handled negotiations to lift the debt ceiling.
The group warned that all Republican legislation could come to a standstill unless they resolve their internal issues.
Hard-right lawmakers specifically accused GOP leaders of retaliating against one of their own, Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga. They said leadership told Clyde that his bill to protect pistol stabilizing braces would not come to the floor this week because he voted against the rule on the debt deal last week.
“Today we took down the rule because we’re frustrated at the way this place is operating. We took a stand in January to end the era of the imperial speakership,” Gaetz said, flanked by his far-right allies.
“We’re concerned that the fundamental commitments that allowed Kevin McCarthy to assume the speakership have been violated as a consequence of the debt limit deal,” he added. “The answer for us is to reassert House conservatives as the appropriate coalition partner for our leadership, instead of them making common cause with Democrats.”
Tuesday’s rule fight creates more headaches for McCarthy — and raises more uncertainty about his political future, less than six months into his speakership.
After the bipartisan debt deal passed last week, some Freedom Caucus members said they would support ousting McCarthy from the speaker’s office through what's known as a “motion to vacate.” But on Tuesday, some of those same Republicans sidestepped questions about removing him and said they have other tools to flex their power, including blocking legislation by voting down future rules.
“There are many, many ways in which we all need to be together for the Republican majority to be able to function effectively,” said Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., a Freedom Caucus member.
Shortly before conservatives shot down Tuesday's rule vote, McCarthy told reporters he is confident he would overcome an effort to oust him.
"Anybody can do a motion to vacate," he said. "I'm confident I'll beat anyone they have."
The 11 Republicans who voted against Tuesday's rule for the gas stoves legislation and other GOP bills are: Gaetz, Bishop and Reps. Chip Roy of Texas; Matt Rosendale of Montana; Ken Buck and Lauren Boebert, both of Colorado; Eli Crane and Andy Biggs, both of Arizona; Tim Burchett of Tennessee; Ralph Norman of South Carolina; and Bob Good of Virginia.
A 12th Republican, Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, also voted no, a procedural step that would allow leaders to bring the rule to the floor later.
Boebert had complained that leadership did not allow votes on amendments to the debt ceiling package, while others were bitter that more Democrats voted for the package than Republicans.
“The majority cannot function without unity,” Bishop told reporters. “And so to pull a pin on the grenade and roll it under the tent of Republican unity, as was done … last week in the debt ceiling package, is untenable for leadership.”
Before the vote was closed, Scalise and Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., were spotted huddling on the floor with Gaetz, Roy and Burchett as they tried to make a last-ditch attempt to salvage the bills. Walking off the floor, Democrats, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, appeared downright giddy at the GOP dysfunction.
After Tuesday’s debacle, Clyde tweeted that he had received a commitment from leadership that his pistol braces bill would get a vote next week. And shortly afterward, Scalise told reporters votes would held Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who helped negotiate the debt deal, argued that the GOP blowup "isn't about a person" — McCarthy — but a process.
"Not everything is embodied in the speakership," said McHenry, a close McCarthy ally. "We have a House majority. We're trying to resolve internal tensions within the House Republicans, and from time to time you have to have an airing within your family, and that's what happened today."
The gas stove bills set to be voted on this week were largely bills intended to send a message and are unlikely to pass the Senate.