Mar 13, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Republicans desperately want out of their self-inflicted chaos

(Photo by TOM BRENNER / AFP) (Photo by TOM BRENNER/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by TOM BRENNER / AFP) (Photo by TOM BRENNER/AFP via Getty Images)

Some House GOP lawmakers want a redo of the 118th Congress — especially when it comes to the rules that handcuffed former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and led to his ouster last fall.

Why it matters: The House GOP has been unable to consistently act like it has the majority, with members blaming the dysfunction on everything from each other to McCarthy and new Speaker Mike Johnson.

Zoom in: Johnson (R-La.) has come under fire over from members across his conference. Moderates have taken aim at his inexperience and compromise-resistant conservatives arguing he isn't fighting hard enough for their priorities.

  • But even some of Johnson's critics say McCarthy's concessions on rules that allowed a small minority of right-wingers to oust him — as well as deals made during the debt-ceiling talks last year — put Johnson in a series of no-win scenarios.

The landscape became even more difficult for the House's Republican leadership this week when Rep. with the resignation of early exit this week of Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.).

  • That brought the GOP's majority in the House down to just two seats — and raised speculation that GOP attrition could cost the party its majority before the Nov. 5 election.

What they're saying: "There's a desire on behalf of the vast majority of the members of the House to re-establish some of the norms with regard to rules on the floor and how legislation is handled," Johnson told reporters Wednesday at the House GOP's retreat at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

  • "The motion to vacate (the speaker's position) is something that comes up a lot among members ... and I'm expecting probably a change to that as well," Johnson added,
  • "You can't have a small group of nihilists hold the whole Congress hostage," another member said.

Others argue the current rules should be enforced more by the House leadership, with some frustrated members noting the firebrands who pushed for rules changes haven't abided by the terms they set — frustrating more pragmatic members.

  • "Congress is like the border, the laws are already in place but you have to have someone to enforce it or otherwise you get mass chaos," Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) told Axios.

The other side: Conservatives who pushed for the initial rules changes argue they were needed to hold leadership accountable and disperse power to a broader range of voices.

  • And those who opted to boot McCarthy say they don't regret their decision.
  • "Usually, a speaker picks their team. Mike Johnson is like the interim head coach who is playing out the 118th Congress because we had to fire the last guy over not winning anything," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

Reality check: Several GOP members said that if their party remains in the majority by such a slim margin, the dysfunction is likely to continue.

  • "I don't know how you change anything with only one or two votes," one member said.
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