Florida Representative Matt Gaetz filed a motion to vacate McCarthy’s speakership on Monday following months of frustration between the speaker and the GOP conference’s most right-wing flank. McCarthy sparked Gaetz’s outrage after reaching a deal with Democrats to pass a short-term spending bill that averted a government shutdown on Saturday as House Republicans failed to reach a deal to fund it through the next fiscal year.
McCarthy, the Republican representative from California, faces potentially complex math in this battle to stay in power. Currently, the House is comprised of 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats (with two vacancies), meaning McCarthy can only afford four conservative defections. Already, at least five Republicans have signaled they would be open to removing McCarthy as speaker, prompting questions about whether he would turn to make a deal with some moderate Democrats to help him remain in power.
During an interview on CNBC Tuesday morning, however, McCarthy said he does not currently have any plans to reach a deal with Democrats.
“You know, they haven’t asked for anything, and I’m not going to provide anything,” he said.
“Let’s just be clear, when [former Speaker] Nancy Pelosi was the minority leader, she would always come in, and she told [former Speaker John] Boehner and [former Speaker Paul Ryan] that she didn’t believe in them utilizing this, how they removed Boehner, how she would always vote it down. Not based on saving an individual but based upon what’s good for government. What’s good for the institution as a whole.”
Newsweek reached out to McCarthy’s office via email for comment.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, during an appearance on MSNBC‘s Morning Joe,said that Democrats will discuss how they will vote on the motion to vacate during a caucus meeting Tuesday morning.
“We’ll have a family conversation about this issue, relatively a first impression that hasn’t been before the Congress in 110 years or so. And then figure out where to go from there,” he said.
Jeffries said that Democrats should vote against McCarthy, Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman reported later in the day.
Democrats Would Push for “Big Concessions” From McCarthy: Expert
Laurel Harbridge-Yong, a professor with Northwestern University’s Department of Political Science, told Newsweek on Tuesday that McCarthy may be banking on House Freedom Caucus members putting the good of the party over their individual preferences.
“I think his hope is that Republicans, including House Freedom Caucus members, will realize the party as a whole is better off if they don’t have some big internal fight right now,” she said.
Typically, lawmakers are more willing to cross party lines on policy than leadership races, which are more about advancing the party’s brand. Still, Democrats representing districts former President Donald Trump won in 2020, or those more evenly split between the two political parties, are more likely to back McCarthy, Harbridge-Yong said.
She said Democrats would likely push for “big concessions” in exchange for their support, as it would be better for them electorally if Republicans appear dysfunctional.
McCarthy agreed to a rules change allowing a single member to bring up a motion to vacate the speakership to win the support of conservatives during the speaker’s race in January, which saw the House go through 15 rounds of votes over several days before McCarthy secured enough votes to win the leadership position.
Although only one member is needed to bring up the motion to vacate, a simple majority is still required to remove him from the position. McCarthy has expressed confidence that he will survive the challenge to his speakership.
Update 10/03/2023, 11:58 a.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information.