Oct 3, 2023 - Politics & Policy

"I never give up": McCarthy faces judgment day as House speaker

McCarthy walking down the hall

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told his members during a closed-door meeting that he's ready to face a leadership challenge head-on when votes start on Tuesday.

Why it matters: McCarthy’s speakership is facing its most difficult test yet, leaving him at risk of becoming the first speaker to ever be removed from his post if Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is successful in his motion to vacate.

  • McCarthy moved up the timeline of the vote after Gaetz introduced the motion, which would force a vote within 48 hours.
  • "I truly believe, though, the institution of the House, at the end of the day, if you throw a speaker out that has 99% of their conference, that kept government open and paid the troops, I think we're in a really bad place for how we're going to run Congress," McCarthy told reporters Tuesday morning.

Inside the room: Multiple GOP lawmakers said that the majority of the room rallied around McCarthy, who received multiple standing ovations while defending his leadership tenure.

  • McCarthy told members: "I never give up and my clock doesn't run out,” according to one lawmaker in the meeting.
  • Another member told Axios that when members were asked for a show of hands on who would back McCarthy, "many, many hands went up to keep the speaker."
  • One senior GOP source in the room noted that most of those who have spoken out against the McCarthy were not in attendance or left early.

What they're saying: Gaetz has repeatedly accused McCarthy of violating the terms of the deal struck with conservatives to obtain the gavel in January, and alleged that he struck a "secret Ukraine deal" with Democrats in order to pass a stopgap funding bill needed to avert a government shutdown.

  • "We're gonna have to sort out who's lying because somebody's lying about whether or not this CR negotiation, there was a secret side deal on Ukraine funding — we'll see," Gaetz said of McCarthy's denial there was a side deal to bring Ukraine funding to the floor.

The big picture: Democrats largely appear unified in their decision not to back McCarthy, making the path more difficult for the California Republican.

  • Gaetz has asserted that he has not ruled out bringing additional motions to vacate to the floor if this doesn't succeed.
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