WASHINGTON ― House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) dared his right-wing haters to try to take away his speaker’s gavel during a closed-door meeting Thursday morning.
“If you want to file a motion to vacate, then file the fucking motion,” McCarthy told his Republican colleagues, according to Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), a McCarthy supporter.
The federal government will partially shut down at the end of the month if Congress can’t pass a spending bill, and House Republicans have no clear plan to pass one.
As has been the case all year, McCarthy is caught between ultraconservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, who are insisting on lower spending levels than the Senate or the White House would accept, and the rest of his conference.
On Tuesday, McCarthy added another wrinkle to the situation by opening an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden ― but even though McCarthy’s far-right critics have long called for such a step, they weren’t mollified.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) called it a “baby step,” criticized McCarthy for refusing to support lower spending, and threatened to file a motion to vacate the chair, which would force an immediate no-confidence vote in the speaker.
On Wednesday, the House abandoned plans to vote on a defense spending bill that would be part of an eventual government funding package, apparently because McCarthy couldn’t muster enough support for the measure.
Gaetz responded Thursday to McCarthy’s expletive with one of his own.
“How about just move the fucking spending bills?” he told CNN.
Asked about what he said to his colleagues about threatening his speakership, McCarthy acknowledged he got mad.
“I showed frustration in here because I am frustrated...with some people in the conference,” he told reporters.
Asked specifically after the conference meeting if he had dared his opponents to “bring it on” and formally move to oust him, McCarthy gave a 4-minute, 15-second answer that recounted alleged crimes by Biden’s son and why he had decided to begin an impeachment inquiry.
“When we come back, we’re not going to leave. We’re going to get this done,” McCarthy said, referring to the spending bills. “No one wins in a government shutdown.”
McCarthy has said House lawmakers should either pass bills funding the federal government’s various agencies or consider passing a short-term “continuing resolution” to maintain current funding levels while lawmakers craft those annual spending bills. Conservatives have balked at the latter move and suggested that if McCarthy passed a resolution with the help of Democratic votes, they would consider wielding the motion to vacate against him.
“I will not continue to fund a government at war with the American people,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said Tuesday, listing grievances that included the Food and Drug Administration’s approval this week of updated COVID-19 vaccines.
The defense bill is usually the easiest for House Republicans to support, while the bill funding the Labor Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, which is also sizable, is usually the most difficult.
“If you can’t pass defense, you can’t pass any of them,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told a reporter from States Newsroom. Simpson heads the Appropriations subcommittee that writes the bill funding the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Meanwhile, the Senate made some plodding progress on avoiding a shutdown during the week, voting 85 to 12 to begin considering the funding bill for military construction and veterans’ programs, a bill that traditionally has broad bipartisan support.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), one of McCarthy’s strongest backers among the Donald Trump wing of the party, said she didn’t view the threat against McCarthy as serious, since he prevailed against the same antagonists in January, when it took 15 rounds of voting for the House to elect him as speaker.
“He told he told the entire conference, he said, ‘If you want to throw in a motion to vacate, that’s fine. I didn’t I didn’t survive 15 rounds for nothing, and I’ll survive another 50 rounds,’” Greene said.
Jonathan Nicholson contributed to this article.