Standoff between McCarthy, hard-line Republicans continues as House remains in recess

The speaker said he was "blindsided" after hard-liners sank a gas stove vote.

June 7, 2023, 9:42 PM

House business has been brought to a halt until next week as the standoff continues between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and hard-line conservatives over McCarthy's handling of the debt ceiling deal.

McCarthy, who said he was surprised by the House Freedom Caucus revolt Tuesday on a procedural move to prevent gas stove bans, initially said it was his intention to hold more votes on Wednesday. By that evening, he had canceled votes for the rest of the week, with members set to return on Monday.

"We've got a small majority. There's a little chaos going on," he told reporters, later adding that because of his mere five-seat control "anybody can disrupt any bill we do."

He said he planned to use the recess to meet with dissatisfied conference members and seek to work out their differences "by the end of the night."

"Some of these members -- they don't know what to ask for. There's numerous different things they're frustrated about, so we'll listen to them," he said.

"I think we'll get ... through it," he said earlier Wednesday.

The speaker said then: "We can't hold up the work for the American people. I can't believe someone would want to hold up not allowing people to pick their own oven or stove they'd like to have."

Several members of the Freedom Caucus had joined 208 Democrats in voting down a rule to take up legislation to prohibit the federal government from banning gas stoves. While the Consumer Product Safety Commission said in January it had no plans to ban gas stoves, similar efforts have advanced at the state level, such as a law in New York banning natural gas stoves and furnaces in most new buildings.

"I feel blindsided. ... Yesterday was started on something else, " McCarthy said Wednesday, referring to a heated conversation between Rep. Andrew Clyde and Majority Leader Steve Scalise last week during the debt ceiling vote. McCarthy said it was a "miscalculation or misinterpretation."

PHOTO: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks at the Capitol in Washington, DC, June 7, 2023.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks at the Capitol in Washington, DC, June 7, 2023.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Members of the Freedom Caucus were critical in holding up McCarthy's speakership in January in exchange for concessions on House rules, including a stipulation that a single member could force a floor vote of no confidence in the speaker.

Asked by ABC News on Wednesday if he was worried about possibly being voted out of his leadership role, he said, "No, no."

Last month, the Freedom Caucus came out adamantly opposed to the agreement between McCarthy and President Joe Biden to lift the debt ceiling and avert default and warned of a "reckoning" over the issue.

Tuesday's vote was the first opportunity for the conference to express its dismay with the speaker, successfully blocking procedural step H.R. 463, which would have provided for the consideration of two resolutions aimed at staving off hypothetical federal gas stove bans.

McCarthy, though, has offered a different take -- branding the first rule vote failure in nearly 21 years as an opportunity to strengthen his speakership.

"I don't think it [the rule] going down is a bad thing. ... You all think that's terrible; everything has to be perfect. I actually like to change things on its head," he said earlier Wednesday, at one point comparing himself to Goldilocks in that he gets pushed on all sides.

"We've been through this before. ... I didn't take this job because it's easy," he said.

McCarthy said then that meetings were ongoing to find "a way that we come together."

"The other thing, too, I think a lot of you were beginning to not underestimate us when we had such a good victory last week," he said. "So I think this kind of helps lower it again, so you'll underestimate us, so we'll have more victories. So, in the end, when I look back, this may be a very big positive thing."

ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs and Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.