Conservatives in the House staged a mini-revolt Tuesday in retaliation for Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s leadership vote to lift the debt ceiling, with the right-wing banding together to build a roadblock on a mixture of bills and vent their frustration.
The group, led by outspoken members of the House Freedom Caucus — a group of 11 Republicans — broke with their party on an otherwise typical procedural vote that threw the day’s schedule and the rest of the week into chaos. It is the first procedural rule vote to fail in almost two decades.
The group includes some of the same conservative GOP members who tried to stop the debt ceiling bill from advancing last week and then threatened to remove Speaker McCarthy after the passage of the bipartisan debt ceiling package, signed by President Biden into law. Instead of taking that step, the group has demanded a meeting with McCarthy and has clarified how the standoff will be resolved.
“We’re frustrated with the way this place is operating,” said GOP Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of the more outspoken members of the group. “We’re not going to live in the era of the imperial speaker anymore.”
Speaker McCarthy is working with just a four-seat majority, which gives a small bloc of lawmakers considerable power to gain concessions from him.
“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 I think that’s part of what happened today,” said Republican Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina.
Only a few hours earlier, GOP leaders were praising how the House GOP had learned to work together as a team after the rocky beginning of the year and the protracted election of McCarthy to the speaker position.
“In sports, it’s called a game plan,” said Republican Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, a former hockey coach, and top GOP vote counter. “The debt limit last week displayed just how far House Republicans have come as a team.”
Remains unclear what led to the conservative revolt
It is unclear what led the conservatives to revolt Tuesday. However, they outlined a list of complaints about McCarthy’s leadership handling of the debt ceiling package. The House approved the package in a bipartisan vote last week despite objections from conservatives which sent it to the Senate, which also passed. President Biden signed it into law on Saturday.
GOP Representative Dan Bishop of North Carolina said the group now demands that McCarthy meet with them to agree on how the House would continue to operate.
“We had an agreement that had been forged by all of us together, and it was utterly jettisoned unilaterally by the speaker,” said Bishop. “And there’s been nothing so far to address the consequences of that.”
When asked if the protest was about the debt ceiling vote, Republican Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina said, “It’s about a lot of things.”
Norman said the group seeks “what we insisted in January: truthfulness, sincere cuts, and putting economic security on the floor.”
The GOP leadership acknowledged the obvious and announced that the procedural vote had failed, with 206 lawmakers in support and 220 opposing it. After hours of discussions in McCarthy’s office, it was announced no votes were to occur Tuesday.
“We’ve got some more conversations to be had,” said Republican Representative Chip Roy of Texas as he exited the Speaker’s office.