Kevin McCarthy faces a momentous challenge to his speakership this week, as one of his most outspoken Republican critics in the House has said he will try to remove him from his leadership role as retribution for working with Democrats to avert a government shutdown.
On Sunday, that critic, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, said he would pursue a “motion to vacate” this week. That would trigger a snap vote on whether to remove Mr. McCarthy as speaker after he relied on Democratic votes on Saturday to help pass a 45-day stopgap spending bill.
“I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy,” Mr. Gaetz said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding, “Nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy.”
Mr. Gaetz did not say which day this week he planned to try to oust the speaker, nor how many Republicans he expected might join him in his effort. But his threat is the peak of a monthslong power struggle between Mr. McCarthy and his right flank that began in January when party hard-liners refused to back his bid to become speaker. The tension escalated this spring when they brought House floor proceedings to a halt to protest a bipartisan deal that Mr. McCarthy struck with President Biden to raise the debt limit.
Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican, shrugged off the threat on Sunday, predicting that he would survive the effort to depose him. He dismissed Mr. Gaetz as “more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something.”
“If he’s upset because he tried to push us into a shutdown and I made sure the government didn’t shut down, then let’s have that fight,” Mr. McCarthy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Mr. McCarthy knew his dramatic about-face on the spending bill might put his speakership at risk. Over the summer and until the final hours of the spending bill fight, he had attempted to cater to his party’s right wing by putting increasingly conservative appropriations bills on the House floor. He also insisted that any stopgap measure include steep budget cuts and significant border security measures.
But on Saturday, Mr. McCarthy abandoned those demands and turned to Democrats for help passing a bill to extend government funding without cuts and with billions of dollars for disaster relief. Almost all the Democrats in the House ended up backing the bill. Nearly half of Republicans voted against it.
The future of Mr. McCarthy’s tenure as speaker will also depend on how Democrats vote this week. The Republicans’ slim House majority means that if Democrats vote in unison against Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Gaetz would need only a handful of G.O.P. members to remove the speaker. If Democrats side with Mr. McCarthy or vote “present” — neither for nor against — or simply do not show up at all, it could lower the threshold for a majority enough for Mr. McCarthy’s supporters to protect him.
But it is not clear if Democrats will rally to rescue Mr. McCarthy the way they did to keep the federal government open. Most Democrats in the House consider him an unreliable partner, particularly since he waited until the last minute to meet them in the middle over the spending fight. Many are also angry with him for announcing last month that the House would begin an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, despite no evidence of personal wrongdoing.
“It’s not up to Democrats to save Republicans,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said on “State of the Union” on Sunday, adding that she would “absolutely” vote to remove Mr. McCarthy, calling him a weak leader.
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