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‘Livid’ US House conservatives poised for next battle with McCarthy

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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives will reconvene in an atmosphere of political uncertainty on Monday, as Republican hardline conservatives clash with Speaker Kevin McCarthy and spoil for a new fight over federal government spending.

Lawmakers are due to return to Washington for the first time since 11 Republicans, including members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, paralyzed the chamber floor for days last week, in protest over a bipartisan debt ceiling bill that passed the House on May 31 without some of the government spending cuts they had demanded.

“What you saw last week was out of total frustration among all of us. And we’re actually more livid now,” Representative Ralph Norman, a leading conservative, told Reuters.

It was not clear whether the hardline Republicans would continue to use parliamentary procedures to stymie legislation, as they press for an as-yet undefined gesture from McCarthy to assuage their concerns.

The House is scheduled this week to consider Republican messaging bills that were delayed by the standoff. The bills would bar new federal regulation of gas stoves and make other regulations subject to congressional approval.

Lawmakers will also consider a bill that would repeal a federal firearms ban on pistol braces, which hardliners say Republican leaders initially pulled as punishment for opposition to the debt ceiling package. Party leaders deny the claim.

“We’ll be back. We’ll be voting,” Representative Tom Emmer, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, said in an interview.

Sustained opposition from a small group of hardliners could leave McCarthy’s narrow 222-213 majority vulnerable to party infighting, potentially complicating passage of key legislation on appropriations, defense authorization and agriculture and even empowering House Democrats.

McCarthy can afford to lose no more than four Republican votes on any measure that faces uniform opposition from Democrats.

His debt ceiling compromise with Democratic President Joe Biden set limits that would keep discretionary government spending roughly flat for the current fiscal year and fiscal 2024, which begins on Oct. 1.

Norman and other conservatives want 12 appropriations bills that Congress will try to pass in coming months to contain deeper spending cuts included in a Republican debt ceiling bill that passed the House in April.

“Our motive is what everybody knows: the country cannot continue this path of total recklessness in spending,” Norman said.

But moderate Republicans warned that hardball tactics could backfire on conservatives if party infighting forces Republican leaders to rely on Democratic votes to move critical legislation.

“The only bills that will pass will be bipartisan bills, which is the last thing these guys want,” said Representative Don Bacon, a leading centrist Republican.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Mary Milliken and Paul Simao)

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