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Tensions among House Republicans came to a head Thursday morning, as Speaker Kevin McCarthy worked to unite his slim majority around a plan to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month — while protecting his position as president from the far-right opposition.
Radical Republicans spent the week explicitly linking McCarthy’s political fate to the spending fight, in a chaotic campaign for greater oversight. This dynamic has paralyzed the House, just weeks before the deadline to fund the government or close its doors.
McCarthy challenged his critics at a Thursday morning meeting of House Republican Party members to stop talking about expelling him from office and begin the formal process of doing so, saying, “If you would like to file a motion to vacate, then file the f*. ***** motion’,” according to Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla.
A motion to resign is the technical step necessary to remove a speaker from his or her position. It’s the same tool used by far-right members that ultimately led Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, to step aside and resign from Congress in 2015.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch critic of McCarthy, threatened Tuesday to force a vote in the House to oust the president, arguing he was “in noncompliance” with the deal he struck with hardline conservatives and hard to guarantee the election of the president. hammer in January.
After the meeting, the speaker downplayed the exchange, telling reporters, “Threats don’t matter, and sometimes people do these things for personal reasons, and that’s OK.” McCarthy pointed to the 15 rounds of voting that had to take place in January before he was elected president as a contrast between his presidency and those that preceded it.
“I’m a little Irish, all right,” he said. “So I’m not walking away from a battle.”
He said he knew members might try to use influence to get the things they want, and said, “You know what, if it comes down to fighting, I’ll fight.” » He ignored the question of whether he had the votes needed to defeat any attempt to oust him.
California Republican Rep. John Duarte told reporters “there’s a lot of support overall for the speaker.”
McCarthy’s personal destiny and the fight against spending
The confrontation comes as House Republicans struggle to pass appropriations bills aimed at keeping the government open through the end of the month. The severity of the situation became clear Wednesday when Republican leaders canceled plans to vote on a defense spending bill. Defense spending is typically one of the easiest measures for Congress to approve, but political rancor upends even the most basic functions of the House.
The failure of defense spending followed objections from the same radical conservatives who threatened McCarthy. This is a persistent dysfunctional dynamic at a time when lawmakers are under pressure to act quickly to avoid a shutdown.
Lawmakers go home for the weekend without any votes on any spending or short-term funding bills this week, and without a clear plan on how to fund the government after Sept. 29, as the Senate proposes a package of three spending bills. across the chamber with significant bipartisan support.
The contrast between the House and Senate was on full display Thursday when the Senate voted 91-7 to advance a package of three spending bills just hours after the packed GOP meeting in the House.
McCarthy tried to assure reporters that Congress could pass a stopgap bill, despite the current conflict within its ranks.
When asked if that was likely to happen next week, McCarthy dodged, saying “a lot of things are probable in life.”
“When we come back, we’re not going to leave, we’re going to get there, no one is going to win if there’s a government shutdown,” McCarthy said. He promised the House would pass spending bills and negotiate with the Senate. But with the September deadline just days away, it’s unlikely both chambers will be able to process all the bills and negotiate a funding compromise without a short-term bill to buy more time.
North Carolina GOP Rep. Richard Hudson, one of McCarthy’s top allies, pushed back on the idea that a shutdown was inevitable, saying, “I don’t agree that it’s is likely, we still have a week.”
Harsh demands fuel frustration
The concerns of hardliners are varied.
Rep. Dan Bishop, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said he would not vote to move forward with any of the remaining 11 appropriations bills until he sees the headline numbers for each of them “which are satisfactory”. Other members of the Freedom Caucus said they would not vote for a defense bill that funds the Pentagon’s ‘woke’ policies – referring to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives , programs to provide specialized health care to transgender service members, and a member reimbursement policy. who travel for reproductive care. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is a close ally of McCarthy but among the conference’s most extreme members, said she would not support a spending bill that would provide money to support the war in Ukraine.
The Freedom Caucus also opposes a short-term stopgap measure to keep the government open — known as a continuing resolution — unless the measure includes key conservative demands.
It’s unclear whether the conference can unite around a plan to avoid a shutdown, and time is running out. Mast shared McCarthy’s frustration at trying to operate under persistent threats from some within his own party.
“Stop holding up everyone’s work,” Mast said. “Stop holding it over people’s heads like it’s this noose that you’re going to try to get someone into.”
Mast pushed McCarthy’s critics to make a choice.
“If you have a direction you want to take, then get in front of the microphone and say what that direction is that you want to take,” Mast said. “Otherwise, get the fuck out.”