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House headed home after defeat of rule for Iran, spending bills

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) arrives at a House Republican candidates forum where congressmen who are running for Speaker of the House will present their platforms in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Oct. 23, 2023, in Washington, DC.    (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/TNS)
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The House is headed home for Thanksgiving after a GOP revolt that led to defeat of the rule for floor debate on the final two pieces of legislation the chamber was scheduled to consider.

Nineteen Republicans voted against the rule for the fiscal 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill and separate legislation dealing with frozen Iranian assets.

Combined with all Democrats voting “no,” the measure was rejected on a 225-198 vote, leaving the House with no further business to attend to after dispensing with a series of pending amendments to the fiscal 2024 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill.

GOP leaders weren’t expected to have the votes to pass either the Labor-HHS-Education or Commerce-Justice-Science bills, but they hoped to at least have a full public airing with debate and amendments before heading home for Thanksgiving. It appears they won’t get the chance for that, at least on the latter bill.

The Republican rebellion on Wednesday’s rule comes after House Freedom Caucus and other hard-line GOP members watched as Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., passed a “clean” stopgap spending bill on Tuesday night with the support of nearly all Democrats.

More than half of Johnson’s conference supported the bill as well, but to critics of his strategy, it weakens conservatives’ hand when party leaders have to rely on Democrats and don’t fight for policy concessions.

On Tuesday, before passage of the continuing resolution, conservatives nearly derailed debate on the Labor-HHS-Education bill out of pique over the stopgap bill’s contents, but they ultimately agreed to support the rule after huddling with Johnson.

On Wednesday’s rule vote, GOP objectors expressed dual concerns. First, they opposed the Commerce-Justice-Science bill for not going far enough to cut FBI spending, despite 9% cuts already baked in. Second, they didn’t like that the rule governing debate on the Iran bill was “closed,” precluding members’ ability to offer amendments.

The Iran bill would force the administration to impose sanctions on financial institutions that facilitate Iran’s access to $6 billion in frozen assets being held in a Qatari bank. President Joe Biden agreed to release the funds contingent on the release of hostages, but later pulled back after Iran-backed Hamas attacked Israel last month.

Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., said some lawmakers thought the rule had been “altered” to bar amendments, which they “didn’t appreciate.”

Higgins said he expects a new, open rule will be brought up that will allow amendments. “They’ll fix it,” he said.