WASHINGTON – Legislation barring the federal government from banning gas stoves in American homes and restaurants was sidetracked this week in the U.S. House by a few conservatives angered by the deal that ended the debt limit crisis.
The GOP majority was expected Tuesday to easily approve two bills important to the Louisiana restaurant industry.
But the legislation stalled when a handful of conservatives mutinied against GOP House leadership and joined House Democratic representatives to defeat a usually perfunctory procedural maneuver, effectively blocking a floor vote on the bills.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, tried Wednesday to strike a deal with the GOP dissenters before postponing future votes until next week.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, blamed Scalise for the holdup, saying Scalise misunderstood one of his House colleagues. But some of the conservatives are saying the fault lies with McCarthy.
“We’re trying to use the tools that are at our disposal to force an agenda,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, said Wednesday night on NewsNation, a subscription streaming service. “McCarthy can’t have a coalition deal with conservatives and with the Democrats. You’ve got to be monogamous with one or the other. You can’t put us on your arm for five months then go jump in the backseat with (Democratic Minority Leader) Hakeem Jeffries and think you can run back to us. That’s not how it’s going to work.”
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Montana, tweeted: “Last week’s debt ceiling ‘deal’ was negotiated behind closed doors and showed the swamp on full display. We fought the battle in January to restore regular order by fighting for changes to empower every member to better represent their constituents. I will not stand by and allow Congress to go back to business as usual.”
McCarthy agreed to a number of rule changes in order to bring conservatives on board during the historic 15 ballots it took to elect him House speaker in January. He is juggling a narrow 222-212 majority, in which the loss of five votes can keep Republicans from passing legislation.
The refusal of 11 Republicans to consider bills that preclude a ban on gas stoves, which Republicans are against, is the first time in two decades that a rules vote was used to keep legislation off the floor.
McCarthy remains optimistic, despite what is considered the strongest challenge to his power since taking office.
“What we’re going to do is we’re going to come back on Monday, work through it and be back working for the American public,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday.
In the meantime, McCarthy put the blame on Scalise, his chief elected deputy in House leadership, in a Fox News interview. McCarthy said the kerfuffle began as a misunderstanding between Scalise over when a vote would occur on Georgia Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde’s move to block a Biden administration rule that classifies pistols with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles, which opens gun owners with that addition to felony charges. A number of House Republican moderates are uncomfortable supporting that issue.
“The Majority Leader runs the floor. And yesterday was started on something else,” McCarthy said. “It was a conversation that the majority leader had with Clyde, and I think it was a miscalculation or misinterpretation of what one said to the other. And that’s what started this, and then something else bellowed into it.”
During the vote Tuesday, Scalise was seen huddling with Clyde, and was joined by other conservatives who voted against the rule on gas stoves and against two other bills that changed how federal agencies promulgate rules. On Thursday, Clyde and Scalise said the full House would vote next week on the gun brace resolution.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge – one of the architects of the debt limit deal – wouldn't speak Thursday about the conservative backlash.
But Scalise did talk Wednesday to a Capitol Hill newsletter, Punchbowl News, about what happened.
“A lot of the anger they expressed was that they felt they were misled by the speaker during the negotiations in January on the speaker vote. Whatever commitments were made, they felt like he misled them, and broke promises,” Scalise said. “I don’t know what those promises were. (I) understand some of them went and talked to (McCarthy), and when they left they still publicly were expressing anger with him over what they perceived as broken promises, and that’s got to get resolved.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana restaurateurs want to see the House pass the gas stove bills.
“We support the federal legislation because it provides a clear pathway for affordable and dependable energy, especially in light of the natural gas produced in Louisiana,” Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, said Tuesday before the vote.
Louisiana has 10,833 eating and drinking establishments, almost all of which use gas stoves. The restaurant industry is the state’s largest employer, providing 21,900 jobs and $13.1 billion in sales, the LRA says.
One of the bills would prevent the Consumer Product Safety Commission from banning gas stoves, while the other would block the U.S. Energy Department from proposing an efficiency rule for home appliances, including gas stoves.
Democrats say the legislation is aimed at fomenting fear for political purposes and is unnecessary, as there is no federal effort afoot to ban gas stoves. About half of the gas stoves in the nation already have the safety features being considered in the new rules for home appliances. The new rules, which are not final, would only apply to newly built stoves.
“With all the very real issues the House majority has decided to waste valuable time and resources to promote half-baked legislative ideas and stir the culture wars pot" with 'Make America Great Again' conspiracy theories, said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pennsylvania.