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Conservatives Tank Their Own Gas Stove Bill Out of Spite
Plus: Nikki Haley’s lone supporter on Capitol Hill can’t help but stump for Trump
Good afternoon and welcome to Press Pass, The Bulwark’s guide to Congress, campaigns, and the way Washington works. Before we jump in, do me a favor and think of someone to share this newsletter with who might enjoy (or hate?) it. Every Tuesday edition is 100 percent free. You can sign up to receive it below.
Today’s Press Pass starts with what Congress is up to after averting a debt ceiling disaster last week—and how the Freedom Caucus this afternoon blew up a bill that the House leadership wanted to pass. Then I spoke with Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who is Nikki Haley’s sole backer on Capitol Hill, about why he’s not on board with Donald Trump’s re-election bid (even if Trump’s own super PAC doesn’t believe him).
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‘Gas Stove Week’ blows up on McCarthy.
Now that Washington has successfully averted a calamitous default on the national debt through broad bipartisan cooperation, Congress can get back its true purpose: ramming through political messaging bills.
This week, the Republican-led House brought forward a pair of bills to protect our gas stoves from Joe Biden:
If these bills were ever to become law, they would do the following:
Forbid the Consumer Product Safety Commission from “regulat[ing] a gas stove as a banned hazardous product.”
Ban regulatory implementations “that would otherwise result in a prohibition on the use or sale of gas stoves in the United States or would otherwise substantially increase the average price of gas stoves in the United States.”
Amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act so the secretary of energy “may not determine that imposition of an energy conservation standard . . . for kitchen ranges or ovens is economically justified” unless imposing such a standard doesn’t result in a product becoming unavailable “based on what type of fuel the product consumes.”
Blocks the Energy Department’s proposed rule regulating gas stoves from ever being implemented.
Since Democrats control the White House and Senate, these bills have no future. But passing them in the House would accomplish one GOP goal: It will help generate headlines that Republicans in Congress—and some vulnerable Democrats—can use on the campaign trail and in media appearances.
But these bills flopped right out of the gate, because members of the House Freedom Caucus, freshly declawed in the debt ceiling fiasco, opposed the rule vote Tuesday afternoon (a procedural hurdle before the actual bill hits the floor for debate). Just minutes ago, a dozen Republicans voted “no” on the rule and tipped the scales as a show of force to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the Republican leadership for leaving them behind in the debt deal. The 206-220 vote was the first time the House rejected a rule in 21 years.
The vote was supposed to be five minutes, but stretched for nearly an hour while negotiations played out on the floor. Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Chip Roy, and others ultimately opposed the rule, causing a massive embarrassment for GOP leadership, who were not given advance notice of the plot. Now they can negotiate further to mend conservatives’ feelings and reconsider, leading to potentially more gas stove votes.
Just one House Democrat has signed on as a cosponsor for both bills: Alaska’s Mary Peltola, who represents the state’s single at-large congressional district. The Save Our Gas Stoves Act has two more Democrats on board, Texans Henry Cuellar and Marc Veasey.
Gas stoves became a national political issue when Richard Trumka, a U.S. Consumer Product Safety commissioner, spoke about the health hazards of gas range stoves indoors and later said “everything’s on the table” when asked how his agency intended to approach the issue on a policy level. The prospect of a nationwide gas stove confiscation is silly—Trumka emphasized that any federal regulation would apply to new stoves, not existing ones.
But the issue—which conservative media have latched on to as a sort of little sibling to the “they’re going to take your guns” bugbear—is not entirely fabricated: there have already been local and state bans, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s latest state budget proposal, released last month, included a mandate that new buildings use more environmentally friendly appliances, such as induction stoves and heat pumps, instead of gas-powered stoves and furnaces. (The state’s proposed ban on new fossil fuel–burning appliances carves out exceptions for hospitals, restaurants, or other industrial buildings.)
“I brought this up at the beginning of the year, and I had Democratic colleagues on the House floor saying ‘That's not true, nobody's doing that’ and then lo and behold, New York State in the budget did just that,” he added.
As is true every week, the House has plenty of other business, but its marquee issues are almost always those with the greatest political volatility—whether legislative vehicles for partisan messaging, the latest political investigation, or some other heat-seeking item. These gas stove bills are no exception. But messaging bills don’t quite send the right message when your side can’t even get them to the House floor for a vote.
Is Ralph Norman doing Nikki Haley any favors?
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) is the only sitting member of Congress backing Nikki Haley’s 2024 presidential campaign. But he remains such an ardent supporter of Donald Trump that he can’t help but include praise for the former president almost every time he stumps for Haley.
It has become such a common occurrence that the Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc. has started touting his pro-Trump comments on its website as if he’s doing media hits on their behalf. “Haley Surrogate Makes The Case For President Trump,” reads the trolly headline of the press release linked above that MAGA Inc. sent to reporters. It highlights comments Norman made during a recent CNN appearance.
I followed up with Norman on Monday to see if it bothers him that his own words are being used to undermine the candidate he supports. He took the opportunity to praise Trump some more, along with the rest of the 2024 GOP field:
Look, his policies were great. Donald Trump’s policies—if you look at what we have now with this disaster—Nikki will do that, as well as DeSantis, as well as any of them. That’s the great thing about Tim Scott. I mean what would you undo that Donald Trump did? I’m not gonna criticize him. Nikki will do just what he’s doing and more.
When I asked what Haley is bringing to the table that's different from Trump, Norman listed a few things, foremost among them Trump’s advanced age:
Age. We need two terms. We need eight years to turn this country around. We don’t need an open seat. Age makes a difference. Secondly, she’s bold. I saw what she did as governor—she doesn’t shy away from tough [decisions]. Thirdly, competition is good. Look who the Democrats have. Name me somebody. Gavin Newsom? We’ve got a senile president.
Trump remains the frontrunner of the 2024 Republican nomination race for many reasons and is maintaining a commanding lead in every major poll. Haley is meanwhile sitting in the single digits in polls outside of her home state of South Carolina; inside the state, she’s competing for second place with Ron DeSantis.
In the secondary race for congressional endorsements—a key to coalition building and an indicator of a campaign’s momentum—Haley is fortunate to have even one. Trump enjoys the support of the most Republican members of Congress while Ron DeSantis and Tim Scott each have a handful of loyal allies in their respective corners. But aside from the numbers, the advantage these candidates enjoy over Haley is that their surrogates are staying on message about their first choice for the Republican nomination.