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Previous story House GOP struggles over conservative hardliners' tactics: 'It's a pain in the a**' Next story

STORY BY MANU RAJU, ANNIE GRAYER AND RYAN NOBLES, CNN

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Published on March 10, 2021 2:17 AM

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GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan joined by other members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, speaks during a news conference to unveil a Covid-19 relief package at the House Triangle on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.
(CNN)House Republicans are engaged in an internal struggle over how to assert their power with their robust minority, with a small contingent of conservative hardliners taking extreme measures to disrupt routine business of the chamber, irritating many of their GOP colleagues who are eager to wage a more focused battle over President Joe Biden's agenda.

The House Freedom Caucus -- a bloc of conservative lawmakers, many of whom are among former President Donald Trump's staunchest allies -- have thrown routine business for a loop, the latest being the refusal to allow quick approval of 13 non-controversial bills, including one that would award three Congressional Gold Medals to the US Capitol Police for their valor during the January 6 riot. Another tactic has also angered lawmakers on both sides: Forcing the House to vote on motions to adjourn, a time-consuming process that eats up floor time and distracts from committee business -- a move that has been used by freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial Georgia Republican who was booted from her committee assignments after many incendiary comments came to light. "It's frustrating," said Rep. Fred Upton, a veteran Michigan Republican. "I don't see that this is resonating at home, the motions to adjourn. I mean it's just a pain. It's a pain in the ass." "It's just pissing everyone off," said one senior House Republican member, asking for anonymity to discuss the matter candidly. "Tactics without reason, they go nowhere," said Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican. "So you've got to have a game plan. You just have to ask about the game plan there." Added Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw: "I'm not voting for any more motions to adjourn. These things are the games that both sides play. I'm not a fan of it from either side." The fight presents a growing challenge for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his leadership team. They recognize that many of their members are frustrated at what they view as Democrats' heavy-handed tactics, cutting them out of the legislative process entirely, abruptly changing the House's schedule and taking steps that disrupt their routines -- such as installing metal detectors at the chamber's doors without their consultation. But they also believe that the GOP needs to have a well-calculated strategy to make their political points, rather than simply throwing a wrench into even the most routine steps the House takes on a daily basis. The issue has been festering in private as well. At a closed-door conference meeting Tuesday, McCarthy told his colleagues that any such tactics must have a clear strategy behind them, according to a person in the room, an implicit rebuke at some of the procedural antics. Despite the pleas, conservative Republicans are showing no signs of letting up. "Look, we want fairness," Rep. Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican, said Tuesday. "Nancy Pelosi has shut down the House. Republicans are really not having any seat at the table. We're not knowing what's in bills until the last minute when they release the language of the bills. We're not basically having amendments allowed. We got the place fenced up and caged in. Now we have magnetometers coming through. It's time to make some changes and until those changes, start taking place we'll continue doing what we're doing." Greene, in a brief interview, said many Republicans saw nothing wrong with what she's doing. "I don't think there is many of my colleagues concerned with my tactics," Greene said. The debate underscores how Republicans are still sorting to how to assert their voice in a new Washington with a President of the opposite party and with both houses of Congress controlled by Democrats. And it also underscores the poisonous relationship in the House between Republicans and Democrats, with many refusing to work on even routine matters with the opposite party in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, which Democrats accused Republicans of helping to incite and GOP lawmakers saying such attacks are unfair. For Crenshaw, there are ways to "fight" in a way that persuades people, and these tactics used by his colleagues do not reach that standard. And others in the House Republican Conference want to stay out of the issue entirely. "I'm in control of my actions. Whatever actions you see out of me you can draw your own conclusions," West Virginia Republican Rep. Carol Miller told CNN, adding that she did not have a message to those who are exploiting the procedural moves. By refusing to allow quick approval of non-controversial bills, the House has to either punt on the matter or instead conduct lengthy roll call votes on each measure. One vote can take at least an hour per bill during the time of Covid-19 and effectively paralyze the chamber even though such measures have the backing of virtually all of Congress -- such as one to prevent child abuse that was blocked from quick passage on Monday night. Republican leaders want their party focused on the big-ticket items they believe will help win back the majority, hoping to focus their message squarely on what they view as Democratic overreach in their approval of a $1.9 trillion relief package and lax immigration policies they believe contributed to growing problems at the US border with Mexico. Senior Republicans were pleased on Tuesday when dozens of their members went to the floor demanding one-by-one that the chamber take up a bill aimed at reopening schools, theatrics that Republicans believe underscores one of their main political arguments. And privately they're trying to counsel their members to continue to make more targeted attacks on Democrats. For Greene, top Republicans have enlisted South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan to work with her as a mentor, according to a GOP source. A Duncan spokesperson didn't respond to a request for comment. But Greene has gone far beyond many of her colleagues, including posting an anti-transgender poster outside the office of a congresswoman whose child is transgender, a move the Republican took to protest a bill on LGBTQ rights. "I think when you become a member of Congress, you have a certain way to carry yourself, and I don't think hallway antics are where it is at," McCarthy told CNN. "I think you should focus on policy."