Updated Jan 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

GOP tensions ignite as hardliners hijack House vote

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

A group of right-wing House Republicans sabotaged their own party's bills on Wednesday in protest of a spending deal between Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Senate Democrats.

Why it matters: The shock move marks a return to the hardball tactics hardliners employed under former Speaker Kevin McCarthy to retaliate against bipartisan deals before they ultimately removed him.

Driving the news: House votes were cancelled for the day after the hardliners voted against a procedural motion to advance a package of GOP measures unrelated to the spending deal.

  • A dozen Republicans, mostly members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, joined Democrats in voting against what is known as a "rule," which almost always passes along party lines.
  • The move effectively grounds House business to a halt until Johnson can reach a deal with the hardliners.

What they're saying: The vote left establishment Republicans and Johnson allies stunned. "No words ... I have no ability to come up with the words to describe where we are," said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.).

  • "I don't understand why this would be done," said Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.). "This is foolish."
  • Another House Republican, asked for their thoughts, told Axios: "I'm out of thoughts."

Zoom in: Many House Republicans also vented their anger at the hardliners, harshly criticizing what they see as counterproductive tactics.

  • "They start with 'no' for everything, and it's now become about ego and ... anger, rather than real policymaking," said Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.). "Every time they do this, they lose more and more credibility."
  • Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) said the spiked vote "creates uncertainty and chaos," adding, "Let's don't cut our noses off to spite our face."
  • Johnson "inherited a mess" and is "calling the best plays he can," said Womack, arguing Republican lawmakers have a "collective, shared responsibility to make him successful, and we are not doing that."

The other side: "We're making a statement that the [spending] deal as it's been announced doesn't secure the border and it doesn't cut our spending," said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), one of the hardliners. "It's unacceptable."

  • Good noted that spending legislation itself is likely to come to the House floor under a process that circumvents rule votes, allowing it to pass on a bipartisan basis and giving conservatives "limited ability to prevent that."
  • Another hardliner, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), said she is "absolutely not" happy with Johnson's performance as speaker.
  • "When we had Speaker McCarthy, we had ... meetings where we were constantly involved, especially when there were negotiations between the Senate and the White House," she said, complaining that, under Johnson, "we've been involved in nothing."

What we're watching: Whether the revolt leads to something more as some hardliners begin to offer faint signals of a possible effort to remove Johnson.

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