Jan 18, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Republican hardliners plot revenge on Mike Johnson

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The House Freedom Caucus may begin to routinely hijack Republican messaging bills as an act of retaliation against House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), according to multiple members of the right-wing group.

Why it matters: It would mark a significant escalation in hardliners’ rebellion against Johnson after he pursued bipartisan deals to pass critical government funding bills.

What they're saying: "If they don't want or need our votes for the material legislation that impacts the country or the large spending packages ... you shouldn't presume that you have our votes for the messaging bills that will go nowhere in the Senate," said Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.).

  • Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) said the threat to tank rule votes was made in a meeting with Johnson on Thursday, in which Freedom Caucus members pushed unsuccessfully for him to tack Republicans' border legislation on to the stopgap spending bill, or continuing resolution (CR).
  • "We gave him a simple path," said Burlison. "Put the most popular bill that passed out of this chamber as an amendment on the CR. ... [I]f the speaker isn't going to take some of those reasonable, conservative asks, then why are we going to continue this charade."
  • "There's been talk about that," said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), a close ally of many Freedom Caucus members. "It could [happen]. There's a lot of frustration, 8 million people over the border in three years."
  • Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) said he "wouldn't be surprised" if Freedom Caucus members tank votes when the House returns later this month.

Driving the news: The House voted on an overwhelming, bipartisan basis on Thursday to pass legislation keeping the government funded until March.

  • The measure was brought up under a process known as suspension of the rules, which allows GOP leadership to bypass the party-line "rule" votes that hardliners are planning to tank in retaliation.
  • Freedom Caucus members have hijacked rule votes — essentially grounding legislative business to a halt — under both Johnson and his predecessor, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), to protest bipartisan deals.

The other side: "I don't think that helps the team, I don't think that helps the country," Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) said of taking down rule votes.

  • "I don't agree with a lot of their tactics. I understand where they're trying to get to, but their tactics don't align with what I would do," he added.

Between the lines: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the former House speaker pro tempore, brushed off the notion that the threat to kill rule votes would significantly disable the House.

  • "Look, you can limp along in the majority and create new ways of governing," he said. "What we saw last week with some members voting down the rule — the same week, they voted for the rule."
  • "It's day-to-day here. But it's been day-to-day here for a very long time," McHenry added.
  • Another senior GOP lawmaker expressed an even more sanguine outlook, saying Republicans are "just going to have to let things settle down for the next week" while the House is out for recess.
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