U.S. lawmakers will decide Tuesday if U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will remain in his leadership position after facing a rare challenge from a member of his party.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz filed a motion late Monday to force a vote on removing McCarthy, expressing frustration in McCarthy’s leadership after McCarthy failed to pass a government funding bill last week with conservative spending priorities.
No speaker of the House has ever been removed from the post.
“If I counted how many times someone wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday morning.
A vote to remove McCarthy would require a simple majority in the 435-member House of Representatives. Republicans control the chamber with a 221-212 majority over opposition Democrats.
Depending on the number of representatives present in and voting in the House chamber, McCarthy can only afford to lose six Republican votes to remain speaker.
House Democrats postponed their planned weekly press conference Tuesday. As in the recent negotiations on averting a federal government shutdown, the slim Republican majority in the House means that Democrats have the numbers to influence the vote on McCarthy.
McCarthy spoke with House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries Monday night. McCarthy said he told Jeffries, “You guys do whatever you need to do. I get politics. I understand where people are. I truly believe though 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 for how we're going to run Congress.”
Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar declined comment Tuesday outside a weekly meeting of House Democrats, saying, “We’ve got to vote as a caucus together.”
The challenge from Gaetz came days after McCarthy relied on votes from a Democratic bloc to pass a short-term funding measure and avoid a shutdown.
McCarthy became House speaker in January after repeated rounds of voting that saw Gaetz and other Republicans oppose his candidacy. One concession that led to McCarthy’s ultimate election was agreeing to allow any single member to call for a vote to oust the speaker.