WASHINGTON — Taking his critics head on, a defiant Speaker Kevin McCarthy told rank-and-file Republicans in a private meeting that he would call a vote Tuesday afternoon on Rep. Matt Gaetz’s resolution to oust him from the speaker’s office, according to lawmakers leaving the meeting.
“He’s going to stand on his record and then we’re going to vote his retention on his record,” Rep. Darrell Issa, a McCarthy ally and fellow California Republican, said as he left the closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol.
Under House rules, McCarthy had until Wednesday to take up the resolution that Gaetz, a conservative Florida Republican and Donald Trump loyalist, filed Monday night. But McCarthy and his allies are moving to rip off the Band-Aid and quickly take on the so-called motion to vacate that has been a huge distraction in the Capitol.
“I get politics. I understand where people are,” McCarthy told reporters. But he added: “I truly believe 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.”
The Gaetz resolution will be considered by the full House at the first vote series of the day, which begins at 1:30 p.m., lawmakers said.
But given how rarely the speakership has been declared vacant — the last time it happened was in 1910, when Speaker Joseph Cannon declared the chair vacant against himself — it’s unclear how exactly it will play out.
Before a vote of no confidence, a McCarthy ally is expected to raise a motion to “table” or delay the vote to remove the speaker. Allies can also vote to refer the resolution to a committee. If any of those procedural tactics are successful, then it stops any further proceedings.
But if all of the 212 House Democrats band together and vote with the five declared McCarthy foes they will achieve a simple majority that can defeat the delay tactics and move right to the vote to oust McCarthy. The five Republicans who want to expel McCarthy are Gaetz, and Reps. Andy Biggs and Eli Crane of Arizona, Bob Good of Virginia and Tim Burchett of Tennessee.
A number of senior Democrats have said they won’t vote to rescue McCarthy from the mutiny. Numerous House Democrats exited their own conference meeting Tuesday mum on how they’d vote on a motion to vacate, although they stressed there would be “unity” within the party on a way forward.
“We are not saving Kevin McCarthy,” said Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., as she left the meeting.
In the Democrats’ meeting, leadership played sound of McCarthy’s Sunday interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” where he said Democrats wanted to shut down the government in last week’s standoff, Connolly recounted. Many rank-and-file Democrats fumed at his remarks.
Democrats heard a range of views about what to do, but “there wasn’t anybody who came to the defense of Kevin McCarthy,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.
Neal, like others, said they’d defer to Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. “I’m going to hear what the leader has to say and coalesce around him,” Neal said.
Still, there are Democrats who say they won’t under any circumstances rescue McCarthy.
“I will vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker. I will not be an enabler,” added Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “It is absolutely against Democratic interests and the interests of the country, from my point of view, to allow him to persist in office.”
“He’s a MAGA extremist in his politics and is the antithesis of everything we hold dear,” Connolly continued.
Other Democrats didn’t say how they would vote — only that Democrats need to stick together in the face of the GOP civil war over McCarthy’s future.
“Democrats understand right now that our unity is our power as we watch the other side devolve,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., a Senate candidate. “And I am not here to fix the Republican Party, only they can do that.”