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Conservatives help block spending bill in retribution over Johnson stopgap

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House Republicans tanked a GOP spending bill on Wednesday — marking a major setback for Speaker Mike Johnson less than 24 hours after passing a bill that would avert a shutdown.

GOP leadership then canceled the rest of the votes for the week, sending the chamber home early for a Thanksgiving recess.

Roughly 20 Republicans joined with Democrats to vote against allowing a funding bill covering the departments of Commerce and Justice, among other provisions, to come up for debate. Conservatives said they voted to block the rule for two reasons: Johnson’s leaning on Democrats to help pass a short-term funding bill on Tuesday and opposition to amendments on the spending legislation itself.

“We had concerns about the bill itself … in addition to concerns relative to what happened yesterday,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

The bill faced obvious challenges over its funding levels for the Department of Justice and the FBI. Conservatives are eager to overhaul those agencies, which have been some of the House GOP’s biggest targets as they accuse parts of the federal government of blatant politicization.

But as Democrats swooped in to help pass a stopgap bill Tuesday to avert a government shutdown, conservatives had explicitly discussed blocking bills from being able to come to the floor as retribution. With an exceedingly thin majority and Democrats not helping the majority party on basic governing votes, Johnson needs almost unanimous GOP support to start debate on a bill. Conservative hardliners used a similar tactic after then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck a deal with the White House on the debt ceiling that those members hated.

Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), a member of the Freedom Caucus, warned that this could keep happening.

“I think it gets bumpy from here on out,” he said. “Anything and everything is on the table.”