Today, following a contentious House Republican Conference meeting to discuss the topline spending agreement Speaker Mike Johnson reached over the weekend with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a group of 12* hardline House Republican conservatives voted with Democrats against a procedural rule on the floor, forcing House Leadership to cancel votes for the day and halting the previously scheduled legislative agenda for the week.
Aside from the immediate impact of indefinitely delaying the three scheduled rule bills for the week-H.R. 788, Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, H.J. Res. 98, NLRB Joint Employer CRA, and S.J. Res. 38, Disapproval of Foreign EV Charger Waiver-this is the second failed rule of Speaker Johnson’s tenure and is a harbinger of challenges moving forward.
Today’s flare up also comes after Speaker Johnson’s addition of the chairs of the “Five Families” to the Elected Leadership Committee (ELC) table this week. The weekly ELC meetings act as an official Leadership huddle and planning session at the start of each week. In so doing, Johnson effectively replaced Speaker McCarthy’s designee of Byron Donalds (FL) with new House Freedom Caucus (HFC) Chair Bob Good (VA). Yet this newfound inclusion of the HFC leader did nothing to prevent today’s failed vote.
The tactic of bringing down a rule as a form of intraparty protest is not unprecedented. Earlier this Congress, HFC Members waged a similar blockade in protest of former Speaker McCarthy’s debt limit agreement, the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA). That impasse took over a week to resolve and involved numerous negotiating sessions with the conservative holdouts. Those June sessions ultimately resulted in an internal agreement to revisit the topline spending numbers-marking them further below the FRA caps-as well as an agreement on the order in which single-subject appropriation bills would be considered on the House floor.
It is unclear how long the current impasse will last and what concessions Speaker Johnson may need to make. But unlike last June-where a funding deadline was not imminent-today’s episode is occurring with just over a week before the January 19 funding deadline.
Ultimately, a motion to vacate (MTV) against Speaker Johnson remains a remote possibility, but taking down a rule is now cemented in the HFC playbook for protesting Leadership’s decision-making, particularly on the issue of government funding.
OUTLOOK/ANALYSIS. As of this evening, Speaker Johnson hosted several lengthy Member-only meetings with today’s 12 holdouts and others to attempt to chart a path forward. While the HFC remains characteristically scattered in their demands, we expect Speaker Johnson will need to make additional commitments on strategy and tactics for any potential government funding bill to move in the House.
Unfortunately, the Speaker’s tools are extremely limited in the current funding fight, leaving him with no good options. The Senate is advocating for a continuing resolution (CR) to March in order to allow enough time to process the 12 individual appropriations bills. That directly contradicts the Speaker’s promise to never again consider short-term CRs. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down on the start of a partial government shutdown on January 19, followed by a government-wide shutdown on February 2.
Until the internal House Republican disagreement is resolved, the House floor will only be used for “suspension” bills that can pass with a 2/3rds majority vote. Ultimately, the more time spent on internal disagreements will cause “must pass” items to slip further into House primary season, making these unpopular votes for both parties’ bases all the more difficult, especially on the Republican side.
*12 House Republican no votes: Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ), Eric Burlison (MO), Eli Crane (AZ), Bob Good (VA), Paul Gosar (AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Anna Paulina Luna (FL), Ralph Norman (SC), Andy Ogles (TN), Scott Perry (PA), Matt Rosendale (MT), and Chip Roy (TX). A thirteenth, Rep. Blake Moore (UT), voted no so that Leadership could preserve its right to make a motion to reconsider the rule. Such a motion would need to be made within the next two legislative days.