WASHINGTON ― Embattled House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will see the first test of his ability to hold on to the gavel Tuesday as the House turns to the intraparty fight to oust him.
McCarthy told Republicans in a closed-door meeting that he would bring up a no-confidence resolution from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in the afternoon.
Rather than a vote on the resolution to take McCarthy’s gavel away, however, lawmakers said they expected to vote on a motion to kill that resolution.
Since several Republicans have sided with Gaetz in his quest to topple the speaker, the majority of the conference that backs McCarthy will need support from several Democrats to protect him. Democrats have not indicated whether they’d bail McCarthy out; McCarthy, for his part, said Tuesday that he had not offered Democrats anything in exchange for their possible support.
If the “motion to table” the Gaetz resolution fails, McCarthy would likely face an up-or-down vote on the Gaetz resolution, and if that succeeds, he would no longer be speaker. But nobody else would, either ― instead, the House would essentially be leaderless like it was in January before McCarthy won the job after 15 rounds of voting.
“If we vacate the chair, our government will shut down” when funding runs out in November, moderate Rep Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa) said. He called on Democrats to “do the right thing” and support McCarthy.
Democrats were meeting as well Tuesday morning to discuss whether to have a unified front and, if so, what that position should be. Leaving the meeting more than an hour after it began, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said different views were still being aired.
But he noted one possible ominous sign for McCarthy — the meeting began with leaders showing a clip of McCarthy’s interview on Sunday talk show where he implied Democrats opposed the 48-day stopgap funding bill to keep the government open. When they voted, Democrats provided the majority of the votes in its favor.
“My sense is there is broad agreement in the caucus about who Kevin McCarthy is and what he stands for,” Connolly said.
He said he would vote against tabling the move to oust McCarthy and for declaring the speakership vacant.
Connolly said he did not buy the argument that a different Republican speaker could be worse. “If Kevin McCarthy can’t get 217 in his own caucus, what makes anyone think a right-winger is going to get 217?” he asked.
Several Republicans emerged from their meeting in the Capitol basement, saying McCarthy received standing ovations for his leadership and that Gaetz did not speak up. The vast majority of Republicans, they said, still back McCarthy.
Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) told reporters, “Matt Gaetz is using the American people as pawns in this narcissistic game of charades.”