House GOP hard-liners tanked a procedural vote Wednesday, in protest of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) striking a bipartisan spending deal with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). The revolt has once again paralyzed the chamber, even as lawmakers have fewer than 10 days to pass legislation to fund the federal government in order to avert a partial shutdown.
In a 203-216 vote Wednesday afternoon, the House failed to pass the rule to consider upcoming bills, with 13 Republicans joining Democrats in voting no. (One was Utah Rep. Blake Moore, a pragmatic member of Republican leadership who voted against the rule so that they could bring it to the floor again.) The “rules” vote has historically been a mundane procedural step in considering legislation — and one that is typically easily passed by the majority party. However, hard-line GOP lawmakers have in the past year adopted the tactic of sinking rules votes to protest decisions by party leaders that they dislike.
Hard-right Republicans sank a similar procedural vote in June, lashing out against then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for working with Democrats to pass a debt ceiling bill. It was the first rule vote to fail since 2002. In November, after McCarthy was ousted and Johnson elected speaker, a small faction of Republicans once again sank a procedural vote to protest the fact that Johnson had relied on Democrats to pass a stopgap funding measure to keep federal agencies open for several weeks.
Wednesday’s failed procedural vote comes as the House faces similarly high stakes. Lawmakers are facing a Jan. 19 deadline to reach an agreement to fund about 20 percent of the government and a Feb. 2 deadline to fund the rest of the government — a two-tiered cliff that is the result of the agreement Johnson made in November.
The vote also followed a tense Republican conference meeting Wednesday morning. It was the first time Johnson had faced GOP lawmakers to explain his deal with Schumer, and some lawmakers were angry that they had learned of the bipartisan spending agreement over the weekend via the press, rather than from their own speaker.
Several members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus criticized Johnson for accepting a deal McCarthy had made. Notably, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a House Freedom Caucus member who unsuccessfully ran for the speakership, stood up to confront Johnson during the meeting, according to people familiar with the exchange who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail the private meeting. Jordan accused Johnson of accepting a $69 billion “side deal” and not fighting hard enough to cap spending at $1.59 trillion, as the House Freedom Caucus had wanted.
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters Wednesday that the spending agreement “does nothing to address the border and does nothing to cut spending.”
When asked about the anger he is facing from his right flank, including reports that some GOP lawmakers are pondering a motion to vacate Johnson from the speakership, Johnson emphasized the slim majority Republicans hold in the chamber.
“Look, leadership is tough. You take a lot of criticism. But remember, I am a hard-line conservative. That’s what they used to call me. I come from that camp,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday. “To me, this [bipartisan spending] deal, this agreement is a down payment on restoring us to fiscal sanity and is critically important.”