Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday that he would not give Democrats anything in exchange for their votes to help save his Speakership, after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) moved to force a vote on ousting him.
“They haven’t asked for anything. I’m not going to provide anything,” McCarthy said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“Hakeem runs his conference,” McCarthy said of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). “He’s going to have a conference, and everybody’s going to talk about it, and I’m not going to put Hakeem in any position, and I respect whatever decision anybody makes.”
“Hakeem Jeffries and I have a good relationship,” McCarthy said. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for me. I understand where the Democrats are. I’m not asking for any special deal or anything else.”
At least four House Republicans have indicated they could support Gaetz’s motion to vacate the chair, raising the possibility that Democrats could have to come to McCarthy’s rescue to save his gavel. House Democrats have been mostly mum on what they would do as a caucus, but some have suggested McCarthy would be unlikely to get Democrats’ support without a deal that benefits them in return.
Gaetz’s measure is set to come before the full House later Tuesday.
McCarthy said that he would not ask for a special deal from Democrats but still suggested that they should come to his aid.
He said that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was House minority leader when then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) faced the threat of a motion to vacate in 2015, said that she would vote down any attempt to oust Boehner for the sake of the institution. The motion did not come to the floor for a vote, but the effort led to Boehner’s ultimate resignation.
“Let’s just be clear. When Nancy Pelosi was the minority leader, she would always come in, and she told Boehner and Paul [Ryan] that she didn’t believe in them utilizing [the motion to vacate to] remove Boehner, that she would always vote it down, not based upon saving an individual but based upon what’s good for government, what’s good for the institution as a whole,” McCarthy said.
“And that’s the question it has to be: Are we now in a situation in our government that we just provided keeping government open, that we’re going to play politics with how you become Speaker? If that’s the case, then I think we got real problems,” he continued.
Democrats, however, emerged from a two-hour meeting on Tuesday indicating they were prepared to help oust the California Republican from the Speakership.
“We are following our leader and we are not saving Kevin McCarthy,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters.
McCarthy dismissed the effort brought by Gaetz as a personal grievance against him, stemming from an ethics complaint Gaetz faced that, according to McCarthy, Gaetz wants him to wipe away, a claim Gaetz has repeatedly denied.
“He’s been blaming me for some for an ethics complaint against him that happened in the last Congress I have nothing to do with. He wants me to try to wipe that away. I’m not going to do that. That’s illegal,” McCarthy said.
“And you know what? If some way I lose my job because I uphold the law, because I uphold the continuity of government, so be it. I’m just going to do what’s right for the American people and keep working towards that direction,” he continued.
Asked for a response, a spokesperson for Gaetz referred The Hill to previous comments the Florida congressman made, saying McCarthy was “lying like a dead dog because I have never asked him to interfere in any ethics matter,” and calling that claim “an abject lie from a sad and pathetic man who lies to hold onto power.”
“For some people, policy failures are recast as personal because their own failures are personally embarrassing to them. This isn’t personal. I can cite to you the specific elements of House rules that have been violated,” Gaetz had said in an earlier statement, before citing specific agreements they had.
When prompted by the CNBC anchors, McCarthy said that Gaetz has been going to Democrats to try and prevent them from saving the Speaker.
“The real challenging part is he’s been offering them subpoena power. I don’t know how he has the right to do that. But yeah, he’s worked it hard,” McCarthy said of Gaetz. “Look, he works hard at trying to make this happened. He’s focused on doing this. I rather people focus on solving the problems for the American people.”
—Updated at 11:58 a.m.