Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Staff and agencies

Republican hardliners’ revolt against Kevin McCarthy shuts down US House of Representatives

Republican speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, and Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader, at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Republican speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, and Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader, at the Capitol on Wednesday. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

The US House of Representatives has been forced to postpone all votes until next week – paralyzed by a revolt against its Republican speaker, Kevin McCarthy, by ultra-conservative members of his own party.

The standoff between McCarthy and a hardline faction of his own Republican majority has forced the chamber into a holding pattern that looks likely to persist until at least Monday.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus have been upset over the bipartisan debt ceiling bill that McCarthy recently brokered with the Democratic president, Joe Biden, as well as claims that some hardliners had been threatened over their opposition to the deal.

“You’ve got a small group of people who are pissed off that are keeping the House of Representatives from functioning,” said Republican representative Steve Womack.

“This is insane. This is not the way a governing majority is expected to behave, and frankly, I think there will be a political cost to it.”

The hardliners were among the 71 Republicans who opposed debt ceiling legislation that passed the House last week. They say McCarthy did not cut spending deeply enough and retaliated against at least one of their members. McCarthy and other House Republican leaders dismissed the retaliation claims.

They also accuse McCarthy of violating the terms of an agreement that allowed him to secure the speaker’s gavel in January, though it was not clear which aspects they believe were not honored.

House action came to a sudden halt midday on Tuesday when the band of conservatives refused to support a routine procedural vote to set the rules schedule for the day’s debate. It was the first time in some 20 years a routine rules vote was defeated.

Days of closed-door negotiations have not yielded a resolution, but McCarthy said he was confident they would sort out their differences. “We’re going to come back on Monday, work through it and be back up for the American public.”

McCarthy oversees a narrow House Republican majority of 222-213, meaning that he can lose only four votes from his own party on any measure that faces uniform opposition from Democrats.

Along with an attempt by Republicans to pass a bill preventing the banning of gas stoves, the dispute also has delayed bills that would increase congressional scrutiny of regulations and expand the scope of judicial review of federal agencies.

As a result of the revolt against McCarthy, routine votes could not be taken, and the pair of pro-gas stove bills important to GOP activists stalled out. Some lawmakers asked if they could simply go home.

McCarthy brushed off the disruption as healthy political debate, part of his “risk taker” way of being a leader — not too different, he said, from the 15-vote spectacle it took in January for him to finally convince his colleagues to elect him as speaker. With a paper-thin GOP majority, any few Republicans have outsized sway.

But the aftermath of the debt ceiling deal is coming into focus. The McCarthy-Biden compromise set overall federal budget caps — holding spending flat for 2024, and with a 1% growth for 2025 — and Congress still needs to pass appropriations bills to fund the various federal agencies at the agreed-to amounts. That is typically done by 1 October. After Biden signed the debt deal into law last weekend, lawmakers have been fast at work on the agency-spending bills ahead of votes this summer to meet the deadline.

Not only did the conservatives object to the deal with Biden as insufficient, they claim it violated the terms of an agreement they had reached with McCarthy to roll back spending even further, to 2022 levels, to make him speaker.

“There was an agreement in January,” Ken Buck, a Republican representative from Colorado, told reporters after he left the speaker’s office on Wednesday morning. “And it was violated in the debt-ceiling bill.”

If Congress fails to pass the spending bills by fall it risks a federal government shutdown – an outcome conservatives have forced multiple times before, starting in the Clinton era when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich led the House into a budget standoff, and again in 2013 when conservatives shut down the government as they tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The longest federal shutdown in history was during the Trump era when Congress refused his demands for money to build the border wall between the US and Mexico.

With Reuters and the Associated Press

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.