As part of passing last week’s legislation to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a global economic catastrophe, members of the “House Freedom Caucus” were rolled over by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. We wondered what might be next for the Freedumb Caucus members after McCarthy called their bluff, but we couldn’t have predicted just how silly and dumb this internal GOP fight would become.
As The Associated Press explains:
House conservatives staged a mini-revolt Tuesday in retaliation for Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership on last week’s vote to raise the debt ceiling, the right wing banding together to block progress on a mixture of bills and vent their frustration.
Led by outspoken members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 11 Republicans broke with their party on an otherwise routine procedural vote that threw the day’s schedule — and the rest of the week — into disarray. It’s the first such procedural rule vote to fail in nearly two decades.
The group is among some of the same conservative Republicans who tried to stop the debt ceiling bill from advancing last week and who then threatened to try to oust McCarthy after passage of the debt ceiling package that President Joe Biden signed into law. Short of taking that step, they have demanded a meeting with McCarthy, leaving it unclear how the standoff will be resolved. [Pols emphasis]
House Freedom Caucus (HFC) members from Colorado — Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-ifle) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) — took part in right-wing Republicans’ latest bit of performative obstruction on Tuesday by helping to block legislation THAT THEY SUPPORTED from coming to the floor for a vote.
Rep. Matt Gaetz says the House Freedom Caucus is planning to “hold the floor” until Speaker McCarthy meets their demands. pic.twitter.com/iDYsJcXXm0
— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) June 7, 2023
The legislation that was ultimately shelved by the HFC protest was an attempt to prevent the federal government from regulating gas stoves, which was briefly a touchpoint for very online MAGA Republicans earlier this year. It bears repeating that the losers here were Republicans; for example, all of the Democrats in Colorado’s Congressional Delegation happily voted ‘NO’ on the procedural move alongside their nutty colleagues.
This was apparently the next move in the game of stupid checkers that the HFC decided to press after meekly pretending that they might try to call a vote to “vacate the chair” and oust McCarthy. You might recall that Buck himself spoke out against McCarthy with little conviction before scurrying behind the nearest solid object. McCarthy’s GOP opponents know they don’t have the votes to truly remove him as Speaker, which is why they threw this public tantrum instead.
POLITICO calls what happened on Tuesday a mini rebellion, though this was more like kicking the ball over the fence at recess because you were mad at the other team. It apparently also has something to do with accusations from the HFC that House GOP leadership threatened to stop an obscure bill about gun braces:
At the center of Tuesday’s dispute was an accusation by Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) that GOP leaders had threatened to sink his bill to repeal a Biden administration gun regulation unless he supported advancing last week’s debt deal. Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who determines which legislation comes to the floor, had denied Clyde’s allegation hours before the vote.
Nonetheless, Clyde delivered an unusual, high-profile brushback of the majority leader. Scalise was later seen in animated conversation on the House floor with the group of conservatives as they tanked the procedural vote on gas stoves in protest.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise denied these allegations, but Fox News now smells blood. Comments that Buck made to POLITICO make this whole thing look even dumber:
Members of the Freedom Caucus also painted their show of force on Tuesday as retribution for leadership cutting a debt deal late last month that sparked fierce criticism from some of McCarthy’s fiercest opponents. Some suggested that, should they sink additional procedural votes, they would further paint the speaker as incapable of running the House without them.
“How can you govern if you can’t pass a rule?” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) asked when pressed on a future vote to topple McCarthy. [Pols emphasis]
The last time the House defeated a procedural rule for debate on legislation was 2002, according to the Congressional Research Service.
So, in order to “get back” at McCarthy, HFC members are going to undercut the leadership of their own House Speaker so that he appears weak and ineffective…which then might eventually lead to gaining the votes that would make a “motion to vacate” more realistic.
There’s no way the HFC has the juice to elect one of their own as Speaker, so even if this “plan” were to succeed, the best that Boebert and Buck could hope for would be a different leader who would likely not be all that different from McCarthy.
It’s not all that clear what the HFC is demanding of McCarthy anyway. Boebert regularly spouts off about McCarthy while also making vague references to some sort of “deal” she supposedly helped negotiate to end the January Speaker vote debacle. Boebert’s credibility is pretty well shot regardless, particularly after she failed to even cast a vote on the debt ceiling bill that she so abhorred and later lied about her reasoning.
Buck’s “line in the sand” is equally ludicrous. Buck has never voted for a debt limit increase based on his own silly principles that don’t mesh with the reality of the devastation that would be caused by a debt default by the United States, so his protests are generally ignored by the adults in the room. Buck’s demands (see image at right) are the equivalent of a seven-year-old girl insisting on a unicorn for her birthday. McCarthy shouldn’t agree to any more federal spending and should not negotiate with Democrats? Yeah, that’s plausible.
Things are still stuck today. As The Washington Post reports:
The House remained in a stalemate Wednesday, recessing minutes after the session began, as hard-right Republicans defied GOP leadership and blocked legislation.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) met Wednesday afternoon with several members of the House Freedom Caucus to negotiate on their demands after 11 hard-right lawmakers — still angry over McCarthy’s handling of the debt ceiling bill — voted with Democrats against passing a rule for consideration of several bills this week. A resolution has yet to be struck, though ongoing negotiations now involve possibly scheduling votes on key bills the Freedom Caucus prioritizes.
McCarthy admitted Wednesday he had been “blindsided” by Tuesday’s events, which was the first rule vote to fail since November 2002, but insisted that the Republican caucus would emerge stronger.
In other words, Republicans are basically filibustering themselves despite holding majority control in the House.
The one thing that Republicans are actually accomplishing is proving to American voters that they absolutely cannot be put in charge of anything. By that measure, this has all been an astounding success.