WASHINGTON — When Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., faced his first deadline to avert a government shutdown in November, he knew his own party wouldn’t let him introduce the bill as normal.
And so he briefly halted the process and called the vote under a “suspension of the rules,” sending the stopgap funding bill straight to the floor with one catch: It needed a two-thirds majority to pass.
He passed with the help of Democratsbecause 93 Republicans—almost half of its membership—dropped out.
Two months later, Johnson followed suit to keep the government open and buy time for negotiations, once again admitting that GOP rebels in his ranks would choke off a vote on the short-term bill. Democrats again helped him pass with a majority, with more Republicans split down the middle.
Welcome to the new Republican-dominated House of Representatives. It is becoming so inept at moving legislation through the normal process that it is beginning to look like a more muddled Senate, where the minority party can bless or block bills and the once-rare 60-vote threshold, or two-thirds majority in the House. becomes the new normal.
The House of Representatives is expected to use a supermajority process to pass it again on Wednesday $78 billion tax bill, facing GOP protests. Some Republicans say they will have to use the same approach if they want to pass full-year government funding and potentially the Senate. immigration and Ukrainian aid pact.
“It’s an amazing development,” said Joshua Huder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute of Governmental Affairs who specializes in Congress.
The issue for Johnson is that his members are increasingly using the normal procedural vote, known as a “rule,” to try to block his party’s legislation. Earlier this month, 13 right-wing MPs tanked a rule on the floor Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. to challenge the spending deal he struck with, even though they supported an unrelated bill designed to bring up the agenda. Four centrist New York Republicans will nearly burn down a rule on Tuesday in protest of a tax bill that did not expand state and local deductionsthey changed their voices at the last minute after they felt they had made their point.
Republican dysfunction in the Rules Committee in recent months and the party’s inability to come together to advance these measures on the floor “created a de facto filibuster because Johnson resorted to a supermajority process,” Huder said.
“It is not surprising that they lean on the Democrats. It’s the only tool to control the floor on these big deals,” Huder said. “But what’s not clear is how sustainable it will be.” Ultimately, he said, the pressure would mount and put Johnson “in an even more dangerous position. Either he’s going to lose his job or some of the rules are going to change. But the last few months have been very unusual.”
The change has far-reaching implications for the House of Representatives, where the long-standing tradition is for the majority party to come together to vote in favor of a procedural rule. Members could vote for or against the bill, but the rule was sacrosanct. Vote against it, they’d say, and you’re simply handing the House over to the minority party.
However, in recent years, multiple factions of Republicans have weaponized tradition and overturned the rules as leverage, or at least threatened to do so, to achieve their goals.
“This has never happened for many years and now it’s a common thing that people do.” he said Brendan Buck, former aide to two Republican House speakers. “The new members have two things in mind: Don’t lie to the Whip and don’t vote against a rule.”
The fragile GOP majority was on display Monday, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 201 to 198.
“My Republican friends barely — barely — control the House,” he said.
Some swing district lawmakers say they want results and, unfortunately, legislation now requires a two-thirds vote.
“The problem is that we’re going to have to stop everything because we can’t accept a rule,” he said. “Now the limit is two-thirds.”
The practice of tanking regulations was instigated by far-right Republicans who used aggressive tactics to get their way. Now, centrist GOP lawmakers say they can play that game, too.
“I’m a team player by nature,” RN.YNNNick. “But what we’ve seen here 13 months in is that small groups are getting their way when they use tactics like overturning the rules. So we are aware of this tactic. We know how politically successful it is. “All options are on the table to get results for our constituents.”