U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy finds himself in a precarious position as he contends with a fractured caucus, with his role as the top Republican in Congress under threat from the far-right, despite yielding to hardline conservatives’ demands for an impeachment inquiry.
McCarthy succumbed to weeks of pressure from hardliners and allies of former President Donald Trump by initiating a formal probe into Democratic President Joe Biden. This move bypassed potential opposition from as many as 20 House of Representatives Republicans, avoiding a floor vote that likely would have ended in failure.
“We cannot use impeachment as a political weapon against every president,” stated Republican Representative Don Bacon, a centrist from Nebraska.
However, even after this announcement, hardline Representative Matt Gaetz raised the prospect of ousting McCarthy under the terms of a previously agreed-upon deal for his speakership, which granted any member the authority to call a vote for his removal.
Gaetz declared that multiple votes on motions to “vacate the chair” could be initiated against the speaker for failing to adhere to a confidential agreement that facilitated his ascent to the speakership in January. In a direct address to McCarthy on the House floor, Gaetz emphasized the need for full compliance or removal.
As Congress approaches a September 1 deadline to avert a government shutdown, House hardliners are now pressing McCarthy to ensure that any short-term stopgap spending measure includes border security provisions and other conservative priorities. Gaetz listed several measures that McCarthy had allegedly failed to advance, including a balanced budget, term limits, the full release of videotapes from the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, and a subpoena of Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son.
Representative Chip Roy, who played a role in the negotiations leading to the hardliners’ agreement with McCarthy in January, confirmed that the speaker had not advanced the measures outlined by Gaetz.
“We haven’t done that. Period. Full stop. We haven’t done what we agreed to do,” Roy told reporters.
Nonetheless, Roy downplayed questions about McCarthy’s future as speaker, emphasizing the current focus on achieving stringent spending targets and passing measures related to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Another hardliner, Representative Clay Higgins, stressed the importance of passing appropriations bills that reduce spending to $1.47 trillion for fiscal year 2022, a figure $120 billion lower than the one agreed upon with Biden in May. Centrist Republicans oppose such deep cuts.
Regarding a motion to remove McCarthy from his position, Higgins remarked, “Let me say that my colleagues should have deep, deep reflection before they venture down that path.”
Despite most hardliners refraining from issuing explicit threats regarding McCarthy’s future, their disappointment would be profound if he opted to avoid a government shutdown with support from House Democrats.
“It would be a sad day for the country if he does that,” asserted Representative Ralph Norman, a prominent member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus.
He added, “The only way I know to describe it: a sad day for America.