House Democrats said Tuesday they do not plan to save Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) when a vote on ousting him from the top spot hits the floor later in the day.
Emerging from a closed-door meeting in the Capitol that lasted more than two hours, House Democrats said they will vote to oust McCarthy from the Speakership.
“We are following our leader, and we are not saving Kevin McCarthy,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters.
Asked whether a decision was made as a caucus not to support McCarthy, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) responded, “Yes.”
The news comes hours before the House is set to vote on an effort to oust McCarthy as Speaker after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) set the process in motion Monday night. There will likely be a procedural vote to table the resolution to oust McCarthy or refer it to committee before the chamber weighs in on whether to boot the Speaker.
In the narrow House GOP majority, a handful of Republican votes opposing McCarthy could put his fate in Democratic hands. Thus far, four GOP members have said they would join Gaetz in voting to oust the Speaker.
Democrats have underscored their strong unity throughout the current Congress, and several lawmakers said they expected that to continue Tuesday.
McCarthy, for his part, remained optimistic Tuesday morning, telling reporters, “I’m confident I’ll hold on,” while recognizing the reality of the slim House GOP majority.
“If five Republicans go with Democrats, then I’m out,” he told reporters, adding he was not expecting Democrats to back him up.
Shortly before a vote on tabling the motion to vacate the chair, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) sent a dear colleague letter announcing that Democratic leadership would support the motion to vacate. He said Republicans have “unleashed chaos, dysfunction and extremism on hardworking American taxpayers,” laying out five differences examples.
“House Democrats remain willing to find common ground on an enlightened path forward. Unfortunately, our extreme Republican colleagues have shown no willingness to do the same,” he wrote.
“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War. Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair,” he added.
A handful of other Democrats lined up against McCarthy following the closed-door caucus meeting.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — who was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year in a McCarthy-led effort — said she will vote against tabling the resolution if it is brought up for a vote and, subsequently, will vote to oust McCarthy.
“I cannot imagine a single Democrat that would be interested in keeping McCarthy as Speaker,” she said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who McCarthy blocked from the House Intelligence Committee in January, said he will also vote to oust the Speaker.
“I know I’m gonna vote against him,” Schiff told reporters.
“This is someone who voted to overturn the election. This is someone who reneged on the budget deal with the President. This is someone who betrays his word on pretty much a daily basis. That’s not someone we have to trust to run one of the most important institutions in the country,” he added.
Even Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), a moderate lawmaker who sometimes votes with Republicans, said he would vote to boot McCarthy from the Speakership.
“The GOP has control of the House, and it is their responsibility to pick their leaders. That decision has nothing to do with me or with any Democrat,” Golden said in a statement. “But in the interest of answering inquiries to my office about whether or not I would support Kevin McCarthy: he’s not the leader I would choose — he doesn’t have the pulse of the people of Maine’s Second District. Absent any significantly meaningful benefit for Maine’s Second District, I see no reason to vote for him.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a key McCarthy ally, warned that Democrats signaling they will side with Gaetz will set a precedent.
“If they’re for institutional chaos, then they’ll vote with the handful of Republicans that are going after the Speaker. But they have to be mindful that this sets a precedent.”
Gaetz, one of McCarthy’s top antagonists, moved to oust McCarthy as Speaker on Monday night, telling reporters after that the California Republican had lost his trust.
“He doesn’t have my support anymore, and he doesn’t have the support of a requisite number of Republicans to continue as the Republican Speaker,” Gaetz said.
The decision to bring a motion to vacate against McCarthy — which Gaetz had been threatening to make for weeks — came days after the Speaker put a “clean” continuing resolution on the floor over the weekend to avoid a government shutdown, which Gaetz had been warning against doing.
The Florida Republican also accused McCarthy of making a “secret side deal” with President Biden about approving Ukraine aid in the future. McCarthy denied that a side deal existed, telling reporters the “agreement” was to fix a possible technical issue connected to transferring funds under the continuing resolution.
House Democratic leaders for weeks had brushed aside questions about a potential vote on McCarthy’s ouster as hypotheticals, declining to say how the caucus would react to the vote.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said it was clear in the closed-door meeting that members do not think they can rely on McCarthy.
“It was pretty evidence that the Democratic caucus does not feel that Kevin McCarthy is a leader who can be trusted,” he told reporters.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) also said conversations during the meeting included “the lack of trust” with McCarthy — as well as some venting.
“We make an agreement with the president on the debt ceiling which takes the country to threat, to the brink of default. And then, without a vote in the House to proceed with an impeachment inquiry?” he said.
And Omar said a video was shown during the conference meeting of McCarthy, during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” trying to blame the near-shutdown on Democrats.
Emily Brooks contributed.
Updated at 1:51 p.m.