Will Democrats Save Kevin McCarthy?
Policy + Politics

Will Democrats Save Kevin McCarthy?

Sipa USA

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz indicated again on Monday that he will move this week to force a vote on ousting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Gaetz, who has long been highly critical of the speaker and reportedly has personal animosity toward him, told CNN on Sunday that he will bring a “motion to vacate” challenging McCarthy’s job after the speaker brought up a bill to avert a government shutdown that passed with bipartisan support.

In a speech on the House floor Monday, Gaetz asked what was in a secret side deal that McCarthy allegedly cut with Democrats and President Joe Biden over Ukraine aid funding (see more on that below).

“It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for and it’s not the Republican conference,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz suggested that he would soon move against McCarthy and asked that the speaker provide details on any side agreement. “I’ll be listening. Stay tuned,” he said.

Gaetz may have the support of a small group of 20 or so hard-right Republicans who have challenged McCarthy since January. But some of those Republicans have already come out against a motion to vacate right now, and Gaetz has acknowledged that his push could well fail. “No matter how loud or disruptive they may be, the anti-McCarthy faction is only a small minority in a Republican conference that is mostly supportive or amenable to him remaining speaker,” Farnoush Amiri of the Associated Press notes.

Several Democrats are expected to vote to save McCarthy, though it’s not clear yet how House Democrats led by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York will approach the vote. Jeffries reportedly has yet to reach a final decision about how to proceed.

“McCarthy has made it clear that he doesn’t keep his promises,” Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, chair of the Armed Services Committee, told CNN Monday morning. “He will make a promise to you and he will break it the second it’s in his best interest to do that, so we have to factor that in as we’re figuring out how to vote on this.”

Smith laid out the factors Democrats have to weigh in deciding whether to save McCarthy: “Literally the only thing the guy’s got going for him is the situation could possibly be even worse without him, and that’s what we need to think about.”

He added that he would want to see McCarthy deliver a vote on supplemental funding for Ukraine and passage of annual appropriations bills.

“Democrats have been strategizing internally about what concessions they might be able to extract from Mr. McCarthy in exchange for saving him from Mr. Gaetz and his allies,” The New York Times’ Carl Hulse and Luke Broadwater report. Democrats are eager to see Mr. McCarthy commit to more funding for Ukraine, award more federal projects in Democrats’ districts and honor the deal on spending levels he reached earlier this year with Mr. Biden, according to people familiar with the discussions. All would draw a backlash from Republicans.”

Any Democratic rescue of McCarthy would likely be temporary, as The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake writes. Experts note that the biggest question is whether Gaetz can build enough support to oust McCarthy because it may well be impossible for the speaker to work with Democrats and survive. “It’s simply not tenable for McCarthy to be seen as bargaining with Democrats to secure his job,” Republican strategist Liam Donovan tells the Post. “Gaetz knows this, which is precisely why he engineered this situation.”