Oct 4, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House members float bipartisan deals after McCarthy goes down

Photo: Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was removed as House speaker and opted not to run again, some lawmakers are already suggesting ways of working across the aisle to lift Congress out of the abyss.

Why it matters: With McCarthy becoming the first speaker to be removed from office, the House is in uncharted territory.

Driving the news: The House voted 216-210 to remove McCarthy via the "motion to vacate," with eight Republicans joining Democrats to oust him.

  • House Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) was appointed as interim speaker, immediately recessing the House to allow the two parties to huddle separately.
  • McCarthy announced he would not run again, setting off a scramble among Republicans to find a successor.

Yes, but: Many Republicans are worried that their emboldened right flank won't allow the conference to unify behind any choice, meaning the bipartisan option remains a potentially critical backstop.

  • Any one member can bring a vote on a motion to vacate – a measure to remove the speaker – meaning a small group of hardliners holds an effective veto over any choice.

What they're saying: "My advice ... is to cut a deal with the Dems and stick [it] to the nitwits," said one moderate House Republican, referring to the members who voted to remove McCarthy.

  • Several Republicans said they want to change the rules around motions to vacate so it takes more than one member to introduce them.
  • "I would recommend seeking a more bipartisan way forward," said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), adding, "We need to make some rules changes, no doubt about it. We need to make these eight [McCarthy rebels] irrelevant."

The other side: Several House Democrats told Axios they believe it's possible their side could agree to a bipartisan deal, with one senior Democrat saying any deal to support a GOP speaker would likely have to be accompanied by an overhaul of House procedure.

  • The senior lawmaker suggested trading a higher bar to bring motions to vacate for "other reforms that ensure our voices are heard," and said any potential speaker "has got to be somebody whose word can be trusted."
  • "We don't have to agree on everything," they said. "But if we shake hands and we come to an agreement we know that we can count on ... then we can do a lot in divided government."
  • A moderate Democrat told Axios that "a bipartisan solution would be a moderate institutionalist like [House Rules Committee Chair] Tom Cole." Another name floated was House Minority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).

Reality check: Many Republican moderates were also McCarthy's firmest supporters and are incensed that Democrats voted to oust him. Meanwhile, Democrats are dug in behind House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

  • Jeffries put out a statement calling for "traditional Republicans" to "walk away from MAGA extremism and join us in partnership for the good of the country."
  • "I think we should be talking about Speaker Hakeem Jeffries, for real," said Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), urging swing-district Republicans to support him.
  • But Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) shot back that "whenever anybody is in the minority they want equal power sharing, they want bipartisanship," adding, "Until they actually show it on the floor of the House, no offense, they can pound sand."
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