AOC says she’d consider backing Gaetz push to oust McCarthy as House speaker’s future in question

Republican speaker of the House chose to side with Democrats while a majority of GOP voted for shutdown

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 01 October 2023 17:38 BST
House votes to fund government for further 45 days

Democrats may well line up behind a resolution to remove Kevin McCarthy from the speakership as a group of House Republican insurgents launch such a bid in the coming days.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent member of the Democratic caucus, spoke on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday and told Margaret Brennan that there were “absolutely” reasons to question Mr McCarthy’s ability to lead the chamber after a majority of his caucus voted against an emergency measure to fund the government for 45 days on Saturday.

“Speaker McCarthy has been very weak. I think he has also been engaged in just absolutely terrible decision-making for the American people,” she said, reprimanding him for “basic fiscal irresponsibility and recklessness.”

But she declined to specifically endorse a motion to vacate set to be filed by Matt Gaetz, a membert of the Republican holdout contingent that vowed to vote against any continuing resolution to keep the goverment from a costly shutdown.

"We would have to cross that bridge when we get to it,” she told CBS.

She explained further on CNN that she would consider the measure, and as of now had no intention of casting her vote to help Mr McCarthy.

“Would I cast that vote? Absolutely. Absolutely,” she said, adding: “[M]y vote at the beginning of this term for Speaker of the House was for Hakeem Jefferies, and I do not intend on voting for a Republican speaker of the House.”

“I think Kevin McCarthy is very weak speaker. He clearly has lost control of his caucus. He has brought the United States and millions of Americans to the brink waiting until the final hour to keep the government open and even then only issuing a 45-day extension. So we’re going to be right back in this place in November.”

Kevin McCarthy could well be ousted from the speakership should Democrats, even a share of the full caucus, support Mr Gaetz’s motion to vacate. At a minimum, the already embattled GOP leader would likely be forced to cut further deals with members of his own caucus — or even Democrats — to secure his future.

It’s a position that he has faced the threat of finding himself in since January, when he eked out a victory in the speakership elections after numerous rounds of voting and backroom deals with far-right members of his caucus.

While Democrats spent much of Saturday gloating over Mr McCarthy’s resistance crumbling, and the GOP Speaker being forced to rely on Democrats to pass legislation that the Republican caucus wouldn’t support, they have not gone as far as saying explicitly that the minority caucus as a whole will vote for his removal. Some have even praised the Speaker for standing up, albeit at the last possible moment, to conservatives in the House and cutting a deal with their party. Such comments could make support for his removal an awkward about-face.

Mr Gaetz had been publicly threatening a motion to vacate throughout the last week of negotiations. On Sunday, he told CNN and ABC News that he would follow through with his promise.

“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week. I think we need to rip off the band aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy,” Mr Gaetz told CNN.

“Look, the one thing everybody has in common is that nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy,” he added. “He lied to Biden, he lied to House conservatives. He had appropriators marking to a different number altogether. And the reason we were backed up against the shutdown politics is not a bug of the system. It’s a feature.”

In his interview with ABC, he further predicted that Mr McCarthy would cut a second deal with Democrats to save himself while agreeing to power-sharing measures.

“I actually think Democrats are going to bail out Kevin McCarthy,” he said.

But Mr McCarthy, appearing on the same program as Ms Ocasio-Cortez, appeared unbothered.

“I’ll survive,” he said dismissively. “Bring it on.”

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