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Updated Oct 3, 2023, 2:21pm EDT
politics

Democrats: We’re not saving McCarthy

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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The News

Top House Democrats announced they would vote to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy Tuesday afternoon, dealing a major blow to the Californian’s hopes of holding onto his gavel in the face of a conservative rebellion from within his own party.

“House Democrats remain willing to find common ground on an enlightened path forward,” Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a dear colleague letter. “Ultimately, our extreme Republican colleagues have shown no willingness to do the same. It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War.”

McCarthy faces an up or down vote on his leadership of the House this afternoon, after Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. filed a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair Monday night. At least seven Republicans so far have promised to vote against McCarthy, according to CNN’s whip count, enough to strip his gavel unless he can win Democratic support.

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The prospects for such a bipartisan rescue began to look slim early on Tuesday. Asked about a potential bargain, McCarthy told CNBC that Democrats “haven’t asked for anything and I’m not going to provide anything,” before suggesting Democrats should back him based on “what’s good for government” after he defied the right flank of his party to avoid a government shutdown.

That message evidently left Democrats cold. During a Tuesday morning caucus meeting, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told his members they should vote to boot McCarthy, who has angered Democrats by pursuing an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden as well as by trying to renege on spending levels agreed to as part of this year’s debt ceiling deal.

McCarthy’s chances seemed to dim further after centrist Democrats whose support he would need released a wave of statements criticizing the speaker. “You are only as good as your word — and time and again, Speaker McCarthy has proven that he is not a man of his word,” New Democrat Coalition Chair Annie Kuster said. “He is simply not trustworthy.” Blue Dogs Coalition Co-Chair Rep. Jared Golden said that “Absent any significantly meaningful benefit for Maine’s Second District, I see no reason to vote for him.”

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Speaking to reporters, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents a purple district in Virginia, offered a lacerating assessment of McCarthy, calling him a “man without principle” who “cannot be trusted.”

“I think anyone who thinks that it might be some sort of strategy for frontliners to try and help McCarthy is kind of fundamentally understanding that to us, nothing is more important than our principles. He has made this bed,” she added.

During a meeting of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, meanwhile, Democratic members told their Republican counterparts they wouldn’t swooping in to save McCarthy either.

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It’s still an open question whether Democrats might reconsider their position if McCarthy were to return with specific concessions, an idea he has so far dismissed out of hand. Jeffries seemed to vaguely hint at the possibility in his own statement suggesting Democrats would not rescue McCarthy, pointing to their disappointment in a lack of “willingness” on the other side to find common ground. Axios reports, meanwhile, that that McCarthy’s allies are still calling Democrats in order to try and strike a last-second deal.

Key Democrats sounded unimpressed with the argument that McCarthy’s decision to keep the government open with a last-second bipartisan vote last month was enough to justify an intervention on his behalf. His appearance on CBS News on Sunday in which he portrayed the latest funding bill — which 90 Republicans opposed, versus just one Democrat — as a successful effort to override intransigent Democrats didn’t help.

“He decided to pretend like they did something to save us when the facts are clear that Democrats overwhelmingly made sure that this country stayed open and did not shut down,” Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas said.

McCarthy has received at least some positive news from his own side of the aisle. Rep. Dan Bishop, a Freedom Caucus member who said last month he would back a motion to vacate, announced he’d back McCarthy after all.

“There must be a substantial groundswell for an effort toward fundamental change,” Bishop, who is set to leave Congress in order to run for attorney general in North Carolina, said. “One persons’ play call with roughly 5-7 potential supporters portends no path toward success, only chaos. That’s why I haven’t previously moved to vacate the chair myself.”

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The View From McCarthy's Allies

Moderate Republicans and McCarthy allies spent much of Tuesday venting their fury at Gaetz. Many dwelled on the intensely personal nature of the feud between the two men, which has played out in public for months: McCarthy has suggested that Gaetz is trying to topple him as revenge for refusing to squash an ethics investigation into the Floridian.

“This is some sort of weird, pseudo-psycho-political fetish that needs to come to an end,” Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y. told Semafor. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., called Gaetz a “a diabolical saboteur who has been single mindedly focused on destabilizing the Republican majority for nine months.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a fellow hardliner and friend of Gaetz’s who has split with him on her support for the speaker, criticized him for having “no plan.”

“There’s no one that has stepped forward to run,” she said. “There’s no one that is coming out saying I’ll be speaker and rallying support within the conference.”

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