House Fight to Oust McCarthy Threatens to Shake Balance of Power

Republican disunity is intensifying in the aftermath of a last-ditch deal to avert a US government shutdown as an intraparty drive to overthrow House Speaker Kevin McCarthy threatens to shake the balance of power in the Capitol.

(Bloomberg) — Republican disunity is intensifying in the aftermath of a last-ditch deal to avert a US government shutdown as an intraparty drive to overthrow House Speaker Kevin McCarthy threatens to shake the balance of power in the Capitol. 

The alliances that emerge from this fight, which Representative Matt Gaetz vowed to launch this week, will have far-reaching ramifications for the Republican-controlled House’s ideological fervor and hunger for brinkmanship.

The rare rebellion against a House speaker and unprecedented possibility members of the opposition party may rescue him unfolds as Washington is struggling to work out annual funding for the government. Aid to Ukraine hangs in the balance, along with contentious battles over immigration and asylum policy, abortion rights and support for the poor.

Despite temporary funding approved over the weekend, the US faces another shutdown threat Nov. 17.

On Monday, McCarthy said Gaetz’s moves against him are based on personality, not policy.

“Don’t judge the GOP by Matt Gaetz,” the speaker said on Fox News. “Judge us by the enemies we keep. Matt, it’s personal.”

If Gaetz can persuade just four more GOP hardliners to join his mutiny, it would succeed combined with nearly unified Democratic opposition against McCarthy. However, Democrats could help the speaker either by voting against the motion to oust him, or choosing not to vote at all. 

Read More: McCarthy Shutdown Turnabout Came With Phone Flurry, Blame Gamble

A rescue by Democrats would push McCarthy into what amounts to a coalition government in the House, a remarkable shift that would force a reappraisal of the House’s legislative agenda. 

In such a scenario, the threat from the Gaetz and his allies would be neutralized, but McCarthy would be on shaky ground, vulnerable to the next challenge and relying on continued Democratic support. 

Centrist Democrats have previously signaled they would consider rescuing McCarthy, who has been under threat of ouster since he won the speakership after 15 rounds of voting in January. But that was before the speaker launched a polarizing impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, antagonizing those same centrists. 

McCarthy’s ouster would open a leadership vacuum in the House with no obvious successor to unify the fractious party, creating more political uncertainty. And there are still Democrats in Washington who see McCarthy — particularly a McCarthy willing to make deals with Democrats — as a better alternative than any potential successor.

Read More: ‘Trumpiest Congressman’ Matt Gaetz Is Taking Aim at House Leader

The drama is playing out as Moody’s Investors Service, the only remaining major credit grader to give the US a top rating, warned in late September its confidence in the US is wavering because of concerns about “governance.”

House Democratic leaders haven’t tipped their hands on whether they would come to McCarthy’s aid. 

Democratic Whip Katherine Clark informed House Democrats Sunday that if Gaetz follows through on his threat the party “will have a Caucus wide discussion on how to address the motion.”

Gaetz announced he would attempt to remove McCarthy this week, following the speaker’s decision Saturday to abandon party rebel’s demands for deep spending cuts and border policy changes to avert an Oct. 1 government shutdown with temporary funding.

The short term funding passed the House Saturday with the backing of 209 Democrats and 126 Republicans. Ninety Republicans opposed the measure.

McCarthy had spent months courting Gaetz and his allies after they lashed out at an earlier deal the speaker made with Biden to raise the legal debt limit and prevent a US debt default. 

McCarthy decided to back the temporary funding well aware it would risk a move to oust him but determined now was the time to trigger that attempt, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The speaker said Sunday he was ready for the fight.

“Bring it on, let’s get over with it and let’s start governing,” McCarthy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If he’s upset because he tried to push us into a shutdown and I made sure the government didn’t shut down, let’s have that fight.”

–With assistance from Erik Wasson and Ryan Teague Beckwith.

(Adds new quote from McCarthy from 5th paragraph)

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