Here’s how Gaetz put himself in the driver’s seat, for now:
On Thursday, five House Republicans voted against the rule to advance the GOP’s Pentagon spending bill — the third the defeat of government that McCarthy has suffered this year.
Voting against a rule used to be a rare event (the last speaker to lose a rule vote was Dennis Hastert). But McCarthy believed he had the votes yesterday because Reps. Ralph Norman (R.C.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who both opposed the same rule Tuesday, had changed their minds.
But what McCarthy and his whip team missed was that Reps. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who voted for the rule Tuesday, opposed the rule on Thursday
That’s when Gaetz went to McCarthy’s office with a plan.
In another closed-door meeting, Gaetz met with a larger group of Republicans, including some moderates, and proposed the same idea.
Gaetz had spent the week demonstrating to McCarthy that the speaker could not pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open temporarily, no matter how much the speaker had reshaped it to appease the right. “#NOCR” has become a rallying cry for Gaetz and his crew who have hardened as the government shutdown looms.
Making matters worse for McCarthy was the fact that Never CR Republicans and No Rule Republicans are actually slightly different groups (although the former has more members). Gaetz actually voted for the Defense bill rule on both Tuesday and Thursday.
But the rule votes increased McCarthy’s desperation and strengthened his main antagonist.
“This opportunity came about only because a handful of us had the stones to overturn the defense approval rule today,” Rep. Dan Bishop (RNC) he said last night.
Gaetz told his Republican colleagues that McCarthy should introduce single-issue appropriations bills in the session one at a time. He dictated his list of the top four: Defense, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations and the Agriculture-FDA bill.
A few hours later, the Rules Committee announced it would take up four bills at 1 p.m. Friday: Defense, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations, and Agriculture-FDA.
The premise of the Gaetz plan is to kill what he calls the ruler by CR. A government shutdown is supposed to be inevitable. And instead of using a hard-right CR as the House’s opening move in Senate negotiations, (lengthy) floor debates on House GOP-crafted appropriations bills will serve this purpose.
Gaetz has a surprising partner in this plan: Rep. Marc Molinaro, a moderate from New York who is one of 18 House Republicans representing a district carried by Joe Biden. Molinaro has been involved in several attempts to resolve the shutdown crisis this week, including the bipartisan effort to use a discharge petition to force a CR vote.
“It’s absolutely an option,” he told NBC News yesterday, even though he was working with Gaetz on the plan to kill the CR.
Now that his strategy has taken hold, Gaetz said last night that he sees a serious obstacle to staying the course and avoiding a return to CR.
“The threat is that five liberal or moderate Republicans will say, ‘We don’t want to do single-issue bills,'” he said on the podcast last night. “So we’re just going to sign what’s called a petition of ‘high and then we’re going to run this thing like shit through a goose.”
As Gaetz’s strategy assumes a shutdown, that threat could start to look more and more real. McCarthy he pointed out himself this week that his rebels have already crossed two of the three major red lines for a House majority member: voting against the speaker nominee approved by a majority of the conference and voting against a rule.
He suggested that it may be inevitable that the third red line will soon be crossed: supporting a discharge petition.