Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to force a vote Tuesday on the far-right effort to oust him from his leadership position and insists he will not cut a deal with Democrats to remain in power, setting the stage for an extraordinary and unpredictable showdown on the House floor.
McCarthy’s fate is deeply uncertain as he confronts what’s known as a “motion to vacate” from Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a strident critic. It would take the support of only a handful of Republicans to remove McCarthy as speaker, should Democrats vote in favor alongside the conservative rebels.
Let’s get on with it, McCarthy told his colleagues in a closed-door meeting, according to a Republican in the room granted anonymity to discuss it.
It’s a stunning moment for the embattled McCarthy that serves as the most severe punishment yet — sparked by his weekend decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown. So far, several hard-right Republicans said they are ready to oppose McCarthy, whose faced challenges from the start of his tenure in January with a prolonged battle to gain the gavel.
At the Capitol, both Republicans and Democrats met privately behind closed doors ahead of what would be a historic afternoon vote.
“(Democrats) haven’t asked for anything,” McCarthy said on CNBC before the meeting. “I’m not going to provide anything.”
McCarthy invoked the last Republican speaker, Joseph Cannon, who more than 100 years ago confronted his critics head on by calling their bluff and setting the vote himself on his ouster. Cannon survived that take-down attempt which, until now, was the first time the House had actually voted to consider removing its speaker.
McCarthy received three standing ovations during the private meeting — one when he came to the microphone to speak, again during his remarks and lastly when he was done, the Republican said.
At one point, there was a show of hands in support of McCarthy and it was “overwhelming,” said Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a member of the House Freedom Caucus. He said he would be voting to “table” or set aside the motion against the speaker.
Gaetz was in attendance, but did not address the room.
On the other side of the Capitol, Democrats lined up for a long discussion and unified around one common point: McCarthy cannot be trusted, one of the lawmakers in the room said.
Still, the Democrats are holding their strategy close, leaving to Leader Hakeem Jeffries and his team to decide the move ahead as floor voting is set to begin.
“I think it’s safe to say there’s not a lot of good will in that room for Kevin McCarthy,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said “McCarthy got himself in this mess. It’s up to McCarthy to get himself out.”
“We are always the adults in the room,” said Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger. “McCarthy said he doesn’t need our help,” she said. “He has made his bed.”