House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, thwarted by hardliners from passing measures to fund the government and frustrated by their shutdown demands, dared conservative dissidents to try to oust him.
(Bloomberg) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, thwarted by hardliners from passing measures to fund the government and frustrated by their shutdown demands, dared conservative dissidents to try to oust him.
“The speaker said, look if you want to make a motion to vacate the chair, bring it on,” Republican Representative Darrell Issa, a McCarthy ally, told reporters Thursday, using a parliamentary term for removing the speaker as he described McCarthy’s comments.
McCarthy’s eruption during a closed-door meeting with House Republicans Thursday morning highlighted the deep differences and rising tension within the party as Washington hurtles toward a federal government shutdown Oct 1.
The show of defiance is rare for McCarthy, who maintains a tenuous hold on his leadership position and has spent his eight months in the role balancing efforts to satisfy ultra-conservatives with attempts to protect swing-district lawmakers. It only takes five members of his party to oust him, unless he gains support from Democratic lawmakers.
Read More: McCarthy Tested by GOP Hardliners From Impeachment to Ukraine
Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, who openly threatened to bring the ouster motion, upped his demands on McCarthy in response to the meeting.
“Truth is Kevin controls his own fate,” Gaetz posted on X, rattling off his demands including a balanced budget vote, a subpoena for Hunter Biden and a vote on congressional term limits. “Pull yourself together, Kevin!”
McCarthy spoke to Republicans just days after he launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, meeting a key demand of conservative dissidents. Hours later far-right lawmakers blocked consideration of a measure to fund the military.
Without an agreement on at least a stopgap spending measure, the federal government will shut down Oct. 1.
US assistance to Ukraine and billions of dollars to respond to domestic disasters including wildfires in Hawaii and a hurricane this month in Florida are also enmeshed in the dispute.
McCarthy declined to give details of his private comments when asked about them by reporters after the meeting. He said he told lawmakers “nobody wins” in a shutdown and the House would not leave Washington in October until the government is funded.
“I showed frustration in here because I am frustrated with some people in the conference,” McCarthy said.
Representative Chip Roy of Texas said on the Glenn Beck show after the meeting he was unhappy with McCarthy’s comments about avoiding a shutdown in the meeting.
“My point is force an actual trajectory change and a shift or get out of the damn game” he said.
The House so far has been unable to pass any of the 12 annual bills that typically fund the government, except one covering military construction and veterans affairs. Hardliners are also opposed to a stopgap measure on Oct. 1 without conservative policies attached, threatening to oust McCarthy from his role if he allows a vote on such a bill.
Read More: Conservative Lawmaker Roy Working on Plan to Avoid US Shutdown
If the speaker had been thinking of looking across the aisle for aid in case of a right-wing revolt, Representative Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, withdrew his offer to help.
Phillips said Thursday he had reeled in that potential lifeline after McCarthy abandoned any attempt at bipartisanship by starting the impeachment inquiry and otherwise “pandering” to a small group of hardliners.
If McCarthy were ousted, the risks of a shutdown would rise. Without an obvious successor, the House would be paralyzed until a new speaker is chosen.
While Senate Republicans and Democrats are largely united in wanting to avoid a shutdown and in wanting to pass spending bills without much drama, they are unable to act on a stopgap bill before the House because of procedural reasons.
“The whole Senate is stalled and soon maybe the country,” Montana Democrat Jon Tester said.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said “extreme” Republicans are intent on shutting down the government. A shutdown, stopping pay to federal workers and halting many government services, “would crash the economy and hurt everyday Americans,” he said.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a June research note that a shutdown would likely subtract 0.2 percentage points from gross domestic product for each week it lasts.
(Updates with Dean Phillips, starting in 15th paragraph; an earlier version corrected the spelling of Issa’s first name)
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.