Kevin McCarthy is daring hard-right Republicans to oust the Speaker

An embattled House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday dared hard-right members of his Republican convention to try to oust him amid growing frustration and anger as California Republicans tried to appease their demands to avoid a government shutdown.

“You think I’m afraid of a motion to vacate. Go ahead and do it. I’m not afraid,” McCarthy said at a closed-door meeting Thursday morning at the House GOP convention, a lawmaker in attendance spoke on condition of anonymity to describe personal comments. Several lawmakers and aides to McCarthy told lawmakers. They recalled being told to move or file “a f—ing motion” to oust him.

A motion to vacate will begin the process of removing McCarthy from the speakership.

Lawmakers responded enthusiastically to McCarthy’s opposition, as a majority in the convention supported him as speaker. But with Republicans holding a razor-thin margin as the House majority, even a small group of far-right opponents could succeed in ousting McCarthy as speaker if all Democrats voted to remove him, though there is no indication that Democrats entertain that idea. .

McCarthy’s comments underscored tensions within the GOP convention that have thrown the House into disarray this week.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced on September 12 that House Republicans would begin a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Ricky Cariotti/The Washington Post)

Facing a September 30 deadline, lawmakers appear to be in a worse position to avoid a shutdown than they were three days ago. On Tuesday, amid negotiations over a government funding bill, McCarthy unilaterally ordered House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden — after promising that the inquiry would only begin with a full House vote — in an apparent attempt to appease hard-right lawmakers. .

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However, that move does not appear to be enough, as members of the House Freedom Caucus and other far-right lawmakers reiterated publicly on Tuesday that they see the opening of an impeachment inquiry into McCarthy as a separate matter to secure their support and avoid defunding the government. A shutdown. Some appeared to be swayed by McCarthy’s gambit, further angering some members of the far right.

On Wednesday, House Republicans failed to move forward with a procedural vote on a generally uncontroversial bill to fund the Defense Department after it became clear they didn’t have enough votes.

After Thursday morning’s meeting of the Republican National Convention, McCarthy appeared upbeat, but declined to elaborate on the language he used or answer whether he thought he had the votes to avoid a resolution to vacate.

“At the end of the day, the best thing that’s going to happen here is that we can get our job done and we’re not stuck in that mess,” McCarthy told reporters.

Several GOP lawmakers emerged from the crowd to voice their support for McCarthy, who took 15 rounds of voting to win the speakership in January.

One of McCarthy’s staunchest allies in the far-right wing of the convention, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.), told reporters that she is no longer a member of the “burn-all-the-low caucus.” The House Freedom Caucus found no reason to expel McCarthy.

“Kevin McCarthy doesn’t let these little things get under his skin. Nothing has come easy for this guy in the last nine months,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (RS.D.). Sometimes he gets frustrated. But listen, I mean, he understands that he’s the right guy this time and he’s not going to give up because the job is tough.

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Rep. Kelly Armstrong (RN.D.) likened the Republican convention to “a messy Thanksgiving dinner.”

“It’s like someone having too many glasses of wine when your cousin shows up,” he said. “We all fight, but we’re all family, and we’ll do everything we can to figure this out.”

House Republicans are hoping to move forward with a portion of the funding bills that returned from a recess this week, which they hope will give McCarthy a stronger footing in negotiations with the Senate.

But their inability to move forward on the basic step of funding the government — the House’s core responsibility enshrined in the Constitution — is an example of how difficult it is for McCarthy and ideologically divided Republicans to find consensus and hold government together. Open and avoid blame if a shutdown is triggered. The House has less than a dozen days in session before the September 30 deadline.

A handful of staunchly conservative lawmakers announced Wednesday that they would not vote to move the defense funding bill forward, as they had requested of the leadership several months ago. Several members of the far-right Freedom Caucus said they have yet to get a figure on how much the 12 appropriations bills will cost once they are passed, and what the commitments to cut spending will be. A total of 11 proposals are yet to be considered in the House.

Rep. Matt Gates (R-Fla.), one of the holdouts, has said he would seek to fire McCarthy if he cobbles together a short-term extension that doesn’t include many conservative demands. On Tuesday, Getz dismissed McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry announcement as a “baby step” and accused him of serving as a “valet” to GOP leader Biden’s spending agenda.

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“The way forward for the House of Representatives is to bring you forward to immediate and complete compliance or fire you,” Gates said of McCarthy. “If we have to start the day with a prayer, an affirmation and a movement to evacuate, so be it.”

Frustrations are simmering within the conference.

McCarthy “has done everything that any speaker could be expected to do,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Thursday. “He has made sure that all of his promises and regular order have been fulfilled. So I think the speaker’s frustration is unique because he has done everything they have asked and made every commitment.

Democrats dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a political stunt and described the Republican convention as a three-ring circus.

“Ring 1: Shut down the government. Ring 2: Impeachment of President Biden. Ring 3: Shove your far-right ideology down the throats of the American people,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DNY) said Thursday. “House Republicans are fighting each other, and you know what that means for everyday Americans: more chaos, more dysfunction and more extremism. It’s sad. It’s dangerous. And it’s pathetic.

Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.

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