House Republicans should be cooking with gas right now.
A debt ceiling crisis behind them, Republicans turned their attention to shielding the public from a federal intrusion into the kitchen. GOPers howled for months about potential regulation, if not prohibition, of gas stoves due to environmental concerns from the left. So Republicans drafted two bills to protect gas stoves.
If only some Republicans would let House Republicans even debate Republican bills about gas stoves.
Here’s what happened:
A conservative faction of House GOPers feel betrayed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. They don’t like the debt ceiling pact McCarthy forged with President Biden to avoid a federal default. They abhor the fact that more Democrats than Republicans - way more - voted for the debt ceiling measure. That’s even though McCarthy managed to convince about two-thirds of all House Republicans to vote in favor of a plan to suspend the debt limit.
Political observers were skeptical McCarthy could thread such a needle: carve a deal with the President yet maintain credibility with a wide swath of House GOPers. It was quite an achievement by McCarthy.
But, in the eyes of some conservatives, McCarthy’s success barely flickers like a pilot light.
A revolt among right-wing Republicans blocked the House from even considering the dual gas stove bills on Tuesday. After two days of unsuccessful negotiations with the rebel Republicans, McCarthy and the GOP brass canceled votes in the House until next Monday.
House Republicans prepped the gas stove bills for debate early this week. Most bills headed to the House floor require what’s called a "rule" before debate commences. The "rule" sets the guidelines for how the House debates the legislation. That includes time restrictions and if any amendments are in order. The House must first adopt the rule before starting debate on the underlying legislation. No rule, no debate.
What is past is prologue.
There were a few tense moments on the House floor last week when the House prepared to bring the debt ceiling package to the floor for debate. Remember that House GOPers can only lose four of their own and still pass a measure without help from the Democrats. More than two dozen Republicans voted nay on the the "rule" for the debt ceiling package. Defeating the rule would have stymied the House and prevented the underlying legislation from ever hitting the floor. But after the vote wore on, a trove of Democrats sat on the sidelines, not casting their ballots. With the vote on the rule failing, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., then held up a green voting card in the chamber. That was the signal to "release" Democrats to vote in favor of the debt ceiling rule and make up the GOP deficit.
The rule passed, depositing the debt ceiling bill on the floor for debate.
However, the Republican majority would earn no such bailout from Jeffries and Democrats on the gas stove bills. A band of arch-conservatives didn’t inform the GOP brass of their plans to vote no on the rule for the gas stove measures. They ultimately tanked the rule – blocking the House from even initiating debate on legislation which the party designed to show up the Biden Administration.
And so commenced two days of backdoor meetings between various Republicans, McCarthy and other top GOP leaders about how to quell the uprising.
There were even suggestions of sniping between McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La. It’s not absolutely clear that the duo is on the same page. Fox has been told for months to watch Scalise should McCarthy stumble in the Speakership.
It’s notable that Scalise was not part of the debt ceiling negotiations. McCarthy conscripted two lieutenants for the job: House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. and Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., for the job. When asked about scheduling questions, McCarthy often replies "that’s a question for the Majority Leader." That’s absolutely true. The floor schedule is Scalise’s purview. But it’s unclear if McCarthy’s response is an attempt to stay in his lane or pawn off potential problems to Scalise.
After the sessions with recalcitrant GOPers, McCarthy finally declared a timeout on Wednesday. He dismissed the House with hopes of having things back to normal on Monday.
The House Rules Committee has teed up a meeting for Monday afternoon on a measure backed by Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., to block a rule by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) on pistol braces. Gun rights advocates note that disabled persons use pistol braces. They argue the government is infringing on Second Amendment rights by enforcing the ATF rule.
The Clyde bill is tied to the center of the controversy among some conservatives. Fox was told there was a problem gaining support for his legislation. Thus, it wasn’t ready for the floor. But conservatives claim there was retaliation by the leadership against Clyde. They contend the GOP leadership refused to bring the pistol brace legislation to the floor because Clyde voted against the rule on the gas stove bill this week.
McCarthy has tried to remain outwardly positive in his conversations with the press corps after the lengthy meetings with fellow Republicans. He trotted out a familiar line – used by both Democrats and Republicans – when their respective parties suffered internal strife. The Speaker said the GOP would have a "family discussion."
"I’m not going to get upset. I’m not going to get frustrated in this process. I know this job is not an easy job. I didn’t seek it because it’s easy. I like the challenge," said McCarthy.
However, the Speaker conceded he was baffled by the dissent.
"I’m not quite sure what they’re concerned about," said McCarthy.
Fox is told there is anger at both McCarthy and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.. Massie is a member of the Rules Committee. Massie voted for the "rule" to allow the debt ceiling bill to come to the floor. Had Massie not greenlighted the debt ceiling bill in the Rules Committee, the GOP would have lacked the votes to jettison the measure to the floor. That enrages members of the Freedom Caucus.
"Massie’s been co-opted by the leadership," said one House conservative source.
Fox is told that some GOP members told Massie it’s time that he remove the debt clock pin he wears from his lapel after supporting the debt ceiling package.
"The Rules Committee is not working the way it should," griped one Freedom Caucus member.
So the House is back at it on Monday. Scalise has tentatively returned the gas stove measures to the House’s docket for Tuesday. We’ll see if Republicans are indeed cooking with gas by then.
Or, the whole thing could explode.