Already a member? Log In

Johnson’s Rules for Radicals

Reps. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Chip Roy, R-Texas
From the moment that Roy, Norman, and Massie were appointed, it was evident that they had a very different agenda: Rather than simply rubber-stamping the edicts of leadership, the triumvirate transformed the former “speaker’s committee” into an ideological battleground. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
May 8, 2024

For all the media attention lavished upon the Mike JohnsonMarjorie Taylor Greene drama, the true source of the chaos that has engulfed House Republicans might be H-312, a cramped, fluorescent-lit hearing room near the top of the Capitol Building. That’s the meeting place of the House Rules Committee, the occasionally stupor-inducing assembly that determines the parliamentary procedures under which laws are actually passed. It is also, technically, one of the most powerful committees in Washington—which is why hardliners Chip Roy and Ralph Norman, aided by Thomas Massie, were more than happy to accept the posting, back in January 2023, in exchange for their votes to elevate Kevin McCarthy to speaker. “I thought it was a punishment,” a senior G.O.P. advisor told me. “I thought they’d cornered themselves and that they’d bore themselves to death.”

In fact, it was a prescient and calculated move. For decades, arguments among the nine members who constitute the majority of the Rules Committee, typically close allies of the speaker, rarely escalated beyond pleasant disagreements over when to break for dinner. But from the moment that Roy, Norman, and Massie were appointed, it was evident that they had a very different agenda. Rather than simply rubber-stamping the edicts of leadership, the triumvirate transformed the former “speaker’s committee” into an ideological battleground—a perch from which to challenge the G.O.P. establishment and demand concessions, impeding budgets proposals meant to avert government shutdowns, national security bills that need renewal, etcetera. Indeed, much of the House’s recent pandemonium can be traced back to their presence on the committee.