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U.S. House paralyzed as conservative Republicans' fight with McCarthy drags on

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters as he walks to the House floor on Tuesday.
Anna Moneymaker
Getty Images
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters as he walks to the House floor on Tuesday.

House lawmakers won't vote until Monday after a bloc of Freedom Caucus members torpedoed GOP legislation in an effort to express dissatisfaction with House leadership.

Updated June 6, 2023 at 7:08 PM ET

Nearly a dozen members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus revolted against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday, tanking a procedural vote that had been expected to pass easily with Republican support.

In a vote of 206 to 220, the rebellious Republicans joined Democrats in preventing debate on a pair of GOP bills that would ramp up gas stove protections.

The publicly humiliating blow for McCarthy and House Republican leadership follows intraparty discord around the debt ceiling deal brokered by the speaker and President Biden.

"There's a lot of discussions that's going on among the group that's very healthy, and I look forward to getting back together later," said House Republican Whip Tom Emmer, putting a positive spin on the fallout.

Republicans scrambled and began meeting on the House floor after the rare failure of a so-called rule vote to allow debate on the gas stove bills.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., could be seen in intense conservations with several Republicans who voted no on the floor.

Later, a group of Freedom Caucus members met with Speaker McCarthy Tuesday evening.

"We've got some more conversations to be had," Texas Rep. Chip Roy told reporters as he was leaving the meeting. Roy, who was part of the GOP group that voted no, declined to comment about the details of the meeting.

"We had a breakdown in the process last week," he said. "We think we need to restore the process that was working."

Rep. Patrick McHenry, one of the key negotiators on the speaker's team for the debt limit deal, told reporters the speaker is working on resolving "internal tensions within House Republicans."

"From time to time, you have to have an airing within your family," he said. "I think that was part of what happened today."

Republican claims he was threatened over debt limit vote

South Carolina GOP Rep. Ralph Norman, a member of the Freedom Caucus who also voted against the Republican measure, told reporters the members' rejection of the rule was "about a lot of things." He said that included frustration about the debt ceiling deal and an apparent slow-walking of Rep. Andrew Clyde's bill regarding pistol stabilizing braces.

"It is about moving the bill — the brace rule — holding that and not putting that on the floor," he said. "That's part of it."

Last week, Clyde said on provocateur Steve Bannon's controversial podcast that House leadership threatened to block his bill on pistol braces if he voted against the debt ceiling legislation. Clyde is the sponsor of a bill on pistol braces.

"I was told by leadership that if I didn't vote for the rule [for the debt ceiling debate], that it would be very difficult to bring my bill to the floor," Clyde said.

McHenry told reporters neither he nor the speaker were part of conversations that insinuated members would be punished for not voting yes on the rule for the debt ceiling legislation.

Leaving the House chamber Tuesday afternoon, Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer told reporters: "We have a small but very willful group of people who unfortunately have much more influence than they ought to."

What does this mean for McCarthy?

House Freedom Caucus members have been vocal in their disappointment with McCarthyover the recent debt ceiling legislation, claiming the speaker didn't do enough to force significant spending cuts.

But it was unclear whether members would move on a motion to vacate, a rule McCarthy agreed to in January when he was fighting to become speaker that would enable any one House member to offer a resolution to remove the speaker.

On Monday night, Norman said it's not "the right time" to have a conversation about ousting McCarthy — still, he was quick to add there's palpable frustration among his caucus.

"We think he gave the farm away," he told NPR of the debt deal, adding McCarthy has other avenues to "show his conservatism" going forward.

"Fighting another day means you look at appropriations, look at reallocations on the military budget, look at the farm bill," he said. "There are other things that he can do that hopefully will get this country back on financial footing."

Virginia Republican Bob Good, also a Freedom Caucus member, told NPR the group will continue pushing for "meaningful cuts and spending reductions." Good also joined the Republicans who tanked the Tuesday vote.

"I think we need to look at all of the spending bills and see what are the areas of opportunity to cut, unnecessary wasteful spending, unjustified spending or actual spending that is harmful to the American people," he said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.