House Republican leaders have a new problem. They can’t count on their members to support them on procedural votes.

Sixteen Republicans defected Wednesday in a vote on the rule governing consideration of a government-funding bill meant to prevent a government shutdown. The defections could have caused the rule to fail since most Democrats voted also voted against it.

Even more striking? Seven of the Republicans who voted against the rule then voted for the funding bill.

Votes on rules are supposed to be party-line and serve as tests of a caucus’s unity. So it was disconcerting for leaders to see so many Republicans vote against the rule they had crafted.

Worse, from a leadership perspective, is that some Republicans say they plan on doing it again if they feel leaders are limiting them from offering controversial amendments on the floor.

“I think that is something being discussed on a case by case basis,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), one of the 16 no votes on the rule.

Depending on how many members vote, Republicans can afford to lose between 15 to 17 votes on the rule.

Republicans were saved Wednesday by the fact that 17 Democrats missed the vote, possibly because of the poor weather in Washington that day. If those Democrats had all voted against the rule, it would have been defeated.

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