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McCarthy says the House will vote today on the effort to oust him as speaker

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Monday.
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U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Monday.

Updated October 3, 2023 at 11:32 AM ET

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's grasp on his leadership role is, once again, looking precarious.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., made good on his long-standing threat to file a motion to vacate on Monday night, taking the first procedural step toward forcing a vote to remove McCarthy as speaker. And McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that he will bring up the motion to vacate today, but it remains unclear how much support he has.

At issue, Gaetz said, is McCarthy's refusal to adhere to promises he made to hard-line House Republicans earlier this year to win their support for the speakership in the first place — and McCarthy's reliance on Democratic votes to narrowly avoid a government shutdown over the weekend.

McCarthy is accusing Gaetz of harboring a grudge over his refusal to quash a congressional ethics complaint against him over allegations of sexual misconduct and illegal drug use that emerged in 2021, telling CNBC on Tuesday morning that Gaetz has "personal things in his life that he has challenges with."

And McCarthy welcomed the challenge, describing it as "a fight worth having."

"Will I get removed because four or five Republicans joined with all the Democrats? That's the question here," he said. "If 98% of the conference wants you to be speaker, but you create a Congress where four people can determine if they work with the other side, how strong is the continuity of the government itself?"

Perhaps paradoxically, McCarthy's speakership title could be in Democrats' hands.

And with hours to go before the vote, they're not looking likely to help.

Emerging from their weekly caucus meeting on Tuesday morning, Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., told reporters that House Democrats agreed to vote together against saving McCarthy in any way.

"There is reason after reason to just let Republicans deal with their own problems," Jayapal said. "Let them wallow in their pigsty of incompetence and inability to govern."

Democrats say they'll prioritize the public interest

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., speaks at a news conference after the House passed a short-term funding bill on Saturday, joined by House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
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House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., speaks at a news conference after the House passed a short-term funding bill on Saturday, joined by House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

McCarthy still appears to have the support of the majority of the 221 House Republicans, and some even tried to convince Gaetz not to move forward with the vote, despite their own frustrations with McCarthy, as NPR has reported.

Republicans hold only a slim four-seat majority in the House, the 212 Democrats could play a major role in either blocking or passing it.

House Democrats have not officially taken a position. Some have suggested in recent days that they would be willing to help McCarthy — who directed an impeachment inquiry into President Biden just last month — but not without a cost.

Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, the House minority whip, told Morning Edition before Tuesday's meeting that she was not aware of McCarthy having offered any concessions.

She said McCarthy has "eroded any trust that he had going forward," and that Democrats need to think carefully about whether they would even want to make a deal with him.

"We are going to have to see if and when Kevin McCarthy offers something, but it is hard to trust someone who had a negotiation with the president of the United States, signed a deal — 314 of us already voted on that in the bipartisan way — and he walked away," she said, referring to the debt ceiling fight earlier this year.

Clark noted that the GOP infighting — which she described as a "full-scale civil war" — has an impact on "people at home who are worried about the GOP's attacks on Social Security, on our public schools, on the freedom of reproductive rights in this country."

That's what Democrats will keep in mind during their discussions on Tuesday, she added.

"We are going to make that decision the way that we look at everything we do in the House: What is the best way to make progress for the American people?"

-- Kelsey Snell contributed to this story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.