GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz is threatening to force a vote on ousting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
If that happens, Democrats will get a vote too — and some progressives say they would vote for it.
But one progressive floated leveraging their votes and possibly cutting a deal with McCarthy.
House Democrats hold more power over House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's future than meets the eye — and some of them are ready to wield it.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida has begun threatening to call a "motion to vacate" on McCarthy, citing disagreements over government spending and the pace of a newly-announced impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Unsurprisingly, other hard-right lawmakers are open to the idea. But more intriguing is what Democrats might do in such a scenario.
Under House rules, every member gets to vote on the motion, which would vacate the Office of the Speaker and trigger new elections for the top job. For Democrats, that presents a choice between helping hard-right lawmakers throw the House into chaos, or voting against the motion — and tacitly supporting McCarthy's continued speakership.
"We've had no discussion about it, and I don't expect us to have any discussion about it moving forward," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
Despite dissatisfaction among members of the House Freedom Caucus and other hard-right Republicans, McCarthy continues to enjoy support from the vast majority of his conference, and it would likely take an overwhelming number of Democrats supporting the vacancy motion to successfully pass it.
For some progressive Democrats, the answer is easy.
"I mean, if that vote comes up, I'll vote to vacate," said Rep. Maxwell Frost of Florida. "I think Kevin McCarthy is a horrible speaker."
"I would vote for that," said Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
"When the vote comes up, I'll make a decision," said Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas. "But hypothetically, yes."
McCarthy could still seek the speakership afterwards — and Democrats could continue to vote for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, as they did during the 15 rounds of voting that took place in January. Or, a different Republican candidate could emerge.
"My message to McCarthy is: face your fears," Frost added. "Let's get this out of the way."
Rep. Greg Casar of Texas, the whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, floated the idea of leveraging the group's roughly 100 votes in an attempt to receive some sort of concession from McCarthy — though he stressed that the caucus hadn't discussed the possibility at all.
"We should have a conversation with him about whether we're going to stop deliberately hurting the American people with their votes every week," said Casar, saying that caucus members could otherwise vote to "oust him."
"A small number of Freedom Caucus members have been able to do a ton of damage," Casar added. "I think that a significant number of progressive members hopefully can stop a bunch of that damage."
Gaetz, for his part, has suggested that Democrats would bail McCarthy out, and he's openly challenging Democrats to support his effort when the time comes.
—Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) September 11, 2023
Yet other progressives weren't as enthused by the prospect.
Rep. Ro Khanna of California said he would follow Jeffries' lead in such a scenario.
"I think we have to be cohesive as a Democratic Party on that vote," said Khanna. "So, whatever the caucus decides."
Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, who previously sounded enthusiastic about causing "complete chaos" by calling a motion to vacate himself, seemed to argue that it wasn't the best decision with a looming government shutdown.
"I really just want to govern," said Bowman. "I don't think Gaetz is serious, but who knows? They love chaos, right?"
What's even less clear, particularly to Democrats, is who might succeed McCarthy if he opts not to seek the speakership again. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee told Axios that he doesn't "see a better speaker" than McCarthy emerging in the aftermath of a motion to vacate.
For some progressives, it's a moot point.
"I think Speaker McCarthy is horrific," said Rep. Robert Garcia of California. "I don't know how we could actually get much worse than McCarthy."
"They're all the same," said Omar. "They're all soulless, and power-hungry, and will do anything."
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