Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s latest embarrassing setback unfolded on the House floor on Tuesday, when five rebel Republicans took the rare step of breaking with their party to block a Pentagon spending bill from coming to the floor for a vote.
The five represent just a fraction of about a dozen hard-right lawmakers who are pushing for deeper spending cuts than Mr. McCarthy has put forward in bills to fund the government over the next year, and who are opposed to a stopgap funding measure that would avert a government shutdown at the end of the month while lawmakers try to hammer out a deal.
They were also ringleaders of the resistance to Mr. McCarthy when he waged a 15-round battle to become speaker in January, and are among those who have recently threatened to oust him from the post for failing to keep promises he made to them to win the job.
Two other like-minded Republicans, Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida and Eli Crane of Arizona, voted with their party to allow the military spending measure to come to the floor, though they have indicated they will not vote for a temporary spending measure to stave off a shutdown. They had personal and parochial reasons for backing the Pentagon measure: Mr. Crane is a former member of the Navy SEALs and Mr. Gaetz represents Pensacola, the heartbeat of naval aviation.
The five who defected drew stern rebukes on Tuesday from some fellow Republicans who accused them of holding the military hostage. Representative Jen Kiggans, a Republican from a competitive district in Virginia, called it “unacceptable and offensive behavior.”
But for the small band of insurgents, the main issue driving them to freeze the House, again, was a lack of trust in Mr. McCarthy.
Here’s a look at the holdouts and why they refused to fall in line.
Andy Biggs of Arizona
Mr. Biggs, the former House Freedom Caucus chairman, explained his vote in a short video he posted online.
“I don’t want to hold the military hostage; that’s not what we’re trying to do,” said Mr. Biggs, a longtime McCarthy detractor who mounted his own failed bid for speaker. “We’re simply saying: ‘Give us all the spending the way you promised. And let us know how much we’re really spending.’”
Mr. Biggs said he was a “no” because Mr. McCarthy had not followed through on his promise to present 12 individual appropriations bills totaling no more than $1.47 trillion, the government spending level before the pandemic. That level is far below what Mr. McCarthy negotiated with President Biden as part of a deal this year to suspend the debt ceiling, and is unacceptable to members of both parties in the Senate.
“They’re trying to make us look bad and put us in a corner because they haven’t done their job,” Mr. Biggs said of Mr. McCarthy and his team. “A number of us said, ‘Look, your reputation for truthfulness is bad.’”
Dan Bishop of North Carolina
Mr. Bishop, who is running for attorney general in his state, did not provide any public explanation for his vote on Tuesday. But he has emerged as one of the most hard-line members of “The 20,” a group of right-wing Republicans who have promised to vote against any appropriations bill proposed by their party leaders until they are assured of a lower level of spending overall, which they argued Mr. McCarthy promised in January.
Ken Buck of Colorado
A member of the House Freedom Caucus, Mr. Buck often behaves like a party of one. He has criticized his party’s efforts to impeach Mr. Biden, despite it being one of the top demands of the far right. He is no big fan of former President Donald J. Trump and was one of just two members of the party’s right flank who voted to certify the 2020 election results.
If Mr. Buck has a clear through line this Congress, it is that he rarely expresses an opinion on any issue that strengthens Mr. McCarthy’s precarious position.
“Here’s the problem: He said spending was his No. 1 priority when he was elected speaker, and then he didn’t institute any of the things that I’m talking about,” Mr. Buck recently told Politico.
He has been talking publicly about leaving Congress for an on-air contributor job at a network like CNN.
“I am interested in talking to folks at CNN and other news organizations,” he told The New York Post this week. “Having an opportunity to do that full time or do that as a contributor would be great also.”
Matt Rosendale of Montana
Mr. Rosendale, who is running a populist, anti-establishment campaign for Senate, said his vote against the rule was a protest of how leaders are handling the spending bills overall.
“For months, I have made it clear that in order for me to support the appropriations bills, we need to see the total value for all 12 bills,” Mr. Rosendale wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Leadership has yet to provide us with that number, which is why I voted against the rule this afternoon! Why are they keeping it a secret?”
Ralph Norman of South Carolina
Mr. Norman, who is considering a primary challenge against Senator Lindsey Graham, said he was opposing all Republican spending initiatives until he received a commitment from Mr. McCarthy that the House would return federal spending to prepandemic levels without any budgetary gimmicks.
“I want to have a real number,” he said. “I don’t want a smoke-and-mirrors number.”