(Bloomberg) -- Republican hard-liners halted business on the House floor Tuesday in a protest against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt-limit deal that signaled deepening division in the party.
The move by 11 House Republicans demonstrated McCarthy’s precarious hold on his party and the ultra-conservatives’ determination to use that leverage to obstruct any bipartisan coalition of moderates.
The group has decided to block any attempt to bring GOP bills to the floor by opposing votes to open debate. In this case, the move blocked debate on a bill to stop the Biden administration from banning gas stoves.
On Tuesday evening, conservatives emerged from an hour-and-a-half meeting with McCarthy to say it was unclear when they would lift their blockade of House business.
Tuesday marked the first time in more than two decades a speaker had been unable to pass a resolution opening debate on a bill on the House floor, according to C-Span.
“This is about making sure McCarthy and moderate Republicans don’t team up with moderate Democrats,” said Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, one of the dissident Republicans.
Buck and other hard-liners in the group said they plan to use that leverage to press for deeper spending cuts than called for in the debt-limit deal.
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The lawmakers involved in the protest said they don’t have enough support, at the moment, to replace McCarthy as speaker, but have found other ways to make life difficult for the speaker. The defection of just five Republicans on a party-line vote can scuttle a measure.
“We’re going to do it more often,” said Ralph Norman, of South Carolina. He said the show of force was needed to get McCarthy to abide by commitments he made to conservatives to win the speakership in January.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise denied that Republicans are in disarray and said he expected the power struggle to get resolved quickly. “There are a few things we have to work through,” he said. “We have been having conversations about the appropriations process.”
Buck and others want McCarthy to publicly commit to pushing for deeper spending cuts. The rebels also want a vote on a bill related to the regulation of pistol braces by Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia.
Representative Chip Roy of Texas, one of the protesters, said he is unconcerned about shutting down the government later this year through a standoff over funding the government.
“We have to use whatever leverage points we can,” he said.
The group wants $120 billion less spending for domestic agencies than the the budget caps deal. If the House presses for that level it will lead to a standoff with the White House and possible shutdown in the fall.
(Updates with meeting, in fourth paragraph.)
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