Sep 11, 2023 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy brushes off hardliner threats to oust him

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday he is "not at all" worried about removal threats from his right flank.

Why it matters: The comment comes ahead of a potentially explosive period in which McCarthy will have to work with Democrats to avert a government shutdown – creating a dire risk of backlash from the right.

What he's saying: "He should just go ahead and do it," McCarthy said of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has been particularly vocal in threatening a push to overthrow McCarthy.

  • "Look, Matt's Matt," the House speaker added.

The context: Gaetz said in a radio appearance last week that the right should "seize the initiative," including by forcing a vote on impeaching President Biden, adding, "If Kevin McCarthy stands in our way, he may not have the job long."

  • Gaetz followed up on Sunday in social media posts suggesting he would seek a deal with Democrats to pass a hypothetical motion to vacate.
  • "If I make a motion to remove Kevin, how may democrat votes can I count on?" Gaetz asked Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
  • In attaining the speakership, McCarthy cut a deal with the right allowing just one member to introduce a so-called "motion to vacate" to force a vote on removing the speaker.

The intrigue: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who is close with both Gaetz and McCarthy and said she strongly opposes a motion to vacate, indicated uncertainty about whether Gaetz would make good on his threats.

  • "I know he's been tweeting about it," she told reporters on Monday after emerging from McCarthy's office. "I would hope not, I think that's the wrong thing to do."

What we're watching: McCarthy will need to work with Democrats in the Senate and White House on a stopgap spending bill and appropriations legislation — or allow the government to shut down.

  • But even as the House advances appropriations bills that cut spending well below what even some Senate Republicans support, some House GOP hardliners have said the bills still don't go far enough.
  • Asked if he will cut a deal with Democrats, McCarthy demurred but said "we're not spending the type of money the Senate wants to spend. Not going to happen."
  • "We've got a lot of work to do," McCarthy said. "You always count us out. I say let's wait and see."
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