House Freedom Caucus members are lashing out after their failure to destroy the government last week, settling for destroying the only chamber they control. And they made some history, to boot! Eleven members did something virtually unthinkable—on Tuesday, they defeated a procedural rule vote to advance a bill to the floor.
It has been more than two decades since a rule vote failed in the House, and it happened under a Republican that time, too. Back then, the speaker was Dennis Hastert, and the bill was a terrible rewrite of bankruptcy laws that leadership eventually forced through, anyway. This time around the bill they derailed was far less consequential—a temper tantrum over the “freedom” for people to have gas stoves.
This time around, the bill in question wasn’t the issue for the Freedom Caucus; it was a list of grievances against Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his leadership team, who refused to let them cause economic catastrophe by allowing the nation to default on its debt. Or because McCarthy broke the secret promises he made to them in his bid to become speaker. Or because one of their members hasn’t gotten a vote yet on his own bill. It’s unclear, and they have a lot of grievances.
“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,” Florida man Rep. Matt Gaetz said in a totally-not-impromptu press conference on the Capitol steps. “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.”
Those commitments are in dispute. The Freedom Caucus folks insist that McCarthy promised them that he would never allow a bill that didn’t have unanimous approval in the Rules Committee to go to the floor. Since that would give either Rep. Chip Roy of Texas or Ralph Norman of South Carolina total control over legislation that moved in the House, that seems to be an unlikely promise for McCarthy to have made. The maniacs also say that McCarthy promised he would never allow a bill to pass with a majority of Democratic votes, which is what happened with the debt ceiling deal. Short of McCarthy locking a bunch of Democrats off of the floor, that is not a promise he can keep. He has no control over individual Democrats and how they choose to vote. So it doesn’t seem too likely that he promised them that, either.
If you ask Reps. Andrew Clyde of Georgia or Lauren Boebert of Colorado, they’ll tell you the revolt was over the fact that Clyde hasn’t gotten a vote on his bill to stop a rule that would reclassify pistols as short-barreled rifles if they have a stabilizing brace attachment. Clyde says that Majority Steve Scalise threatened him last week, telling him his bill would never get a floor vote if he voted against the rule on the debt ceiling vote.
“Let me be unequivocally clear, I was threatened that if I voted against the closed rule to the debt ceiling agreement, it would be very difficult to bring my pistol stabilizing brace bill to the House floor,” he said. Imagine that. A Republican committing extortion. Scalise says it hasn’t been scheduled yet because there isn’t enough Republican support for it.
What this revolt was probably really about was the Freedom Caucus seeing an awful lot of humiliating headlines about their failure to control McCarthy and blow up the debt ceiling last week and are trying to reassert themselves as in control. They couldn’t cause economic chaos, so they’re settling for congressional chaos. And they’re promising to keep on doing it until they get their way.
“What we plan to do is to be ready at all points in time, acting in good faith, to reforge the unity that was destroyed last week,” Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina threatened. “And so what happens depends on what—leadership is inclined to reciprocate and proceed.”
So what are they going to insist on next? The ridiculous national sales tax bill they say McCarthy promised they’d get a vote on? Here’s hoping!
McCarthy’s bad deals coming to light, including a promised vote on the most ridiculous tax bill ever
Freedom Caucus insists McCarthy broke promises