Congress passed a government spending bill through a bipartisan measure over the weekend, with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) receiving help from the Democratic conference to pass the bill hours before a deadline would have forced a government shutdown.
Now facing the possibility of removal from his post partly because of that vote, McCarthy will likely rely on Democrats to keep him in his position — an action that some Democratic lawmakers are opposed to unless McCarthy makes significant concessions on House rules going forward.
Internal GOP squabbling will likely mean that McCarthy will face a “motion to vacate” vote sometime in the near future. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) has promised to file such a motion sometime soon, citing McCarthy’s refusal to cave on demands from the far right Freedom Caucus to pass a bill that would have made huge cuts to federal spending, particularly on social programs.
However, it’s unclear who could replace McCarthy if such a vote takes place, as it’s unlikely that differing factions within the GOP conference will be able to agree on a candidate. Earlier this year, it took 15 ballots over the course of several days for Republicans to finally agree on appointing McCarthy to the speakership.
On ABC News’s “This Week” program on Sunday, Gaetz acknowledged that he would have a hard time convincing the rest of the conference to back his agenda, but maintained that new leadership is needed.
“The one thing Democrats, Republicans, the White House, that we all have in common is that Kevin McCarthy, at one point or another, has lied to all of us,” Gaetz said.
The only way McCarthy could remain in power, Gaetz continued, was if Democrats agreed to help him.
“If, at this time next week Kevin McCarthy is still speaker of the House, it will be because the Democrats bailed him out. He can be their speaker, not mine,” Gaetz said.
Motions to vacate have rarely been attempted in the history of the House, and never successfully against a speaker. McCarthy has dared Gaetz to follow through on his promise — “Bring it on,” he said over the weekend.
Democrats have not indicated how they would vote if Gaetz’s plan comes to fruition. It’s possible that the party will allow the vote to happen, resulting in McCarthy’s removal. It’s also possible that the party may view McCarthy as a better option, given that a new candidate may be even further right. But there is deep reluctance within the Democratic conference to back a plan to help McCarthy stay in power — at least, not without concessions on how the House is run. The chamber is currently almost evenly-split, with Republicans holding a majority by only five seats.
Some pro-McCarthy Republicans have been openly courting Democrats to help them.
“I think what we need to do is encourage bipartisanship and encourage two-party solutions to be brought to the floor,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania) said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “That’s what we need. And to do the opposite would be rewarding this Hatfield vs. McCoy brand of politics that’s destroying our nation.”
But Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) say that Republicans shouldn’t expect them to help so soon after the government spending agreement.
“I believe that it’s up to the Republican conference to determine their own leadership and deal with their own problems, but it’s not up to Democrats to save Republicans,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding that she would “absolutely” vote to remove McCarthy, if given the chance.
She would only vote differently if Democrats struck a deal with the speaker, she went on. “I don’t think we give up votes for free,” she said.
Fellow squad member Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), who is also chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, made similar calls on Thursday ahead of the spending bill vote. If Democrats were to help McCarthy stay speaker, a power-sharing agreement would be needed, she said, giving the party’s leadership more power in committee hearings and on the House floor to propose legislation and oppose far right proposals, for example.
McCarthy’s word wouldn’t be enough — such a deal would need to be in writing, Jayapal told Talking Points Memo.
“If there was any kind of a deal to be made, it would need to be written into the rules of the House,” Jayapal said. “We would need to codify power-sharing because that’s the only way we can trust him.”
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