Let’s be clear: It was House Democrats who prevented the federal government shutdown on Saturday with 209 of 210 members voting in favor of the proposed stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government operating until mid-November. The measure would not have come close to passing with just GOP votes given more than forty percent (90) of the GOP House caucus voted no despite Republican House Leader/Speaker Kevin McCarthy drafting the bill and the GOP controlling the chamber.
But now McCarthy’s Speakership is in jeopardy because he turned to Democrats to keep the government open over the demands of people like Donald Trump who recently called for his supporters in Congress to either “defund” the two federal prosecutions of him or shutdown the government. And come Sunday morning, Trump sycophant GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz announced that he will file—as he threatened to do if McCarthy ended up passing a funding bill with primarily Democratic support—a motion to remove McCarthy as Speaker. Gaetz stated, “We need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy.”
If Gaetz does in fact make a motion to vacate as it’s called, then a House vote will be taken to determine if McCarthy should remain as Speaker. If a majority of members present vote in favor of Gaetz’s motion, McCarthy is out. As a practical matter, if all Democrats join with just a handful of Republicans, McCarthy loses his Speakership. (Keep in mind that in every one of the 15 votes it took for McCarthy to finally be elected Speaker, Democrats unanimously voted against him.)
The question now comes should House Democrats save Kevin McCarthy’s Speakership the way they saved America from a government shutdown? The answer is simple: Maybe. And that maybe depends on what McCarthy will offer the Democrats in exchange for keeping him as Speaker.
Current Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jeffries earlier this week responded about potentially rescuing McCarthy, this “is part of the Republican civil war. Not our business.” Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly voiced a similar sentiment.
But other Democrats have been more open to the prospect–if the price is right, that is. Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern perhaps summed it up perfectly when asked about a potential deal, responding: “People have asked about making a deal with them. But I’m not a cheap date. I’m an expensive date.”
That is the right approach. Look, McCarthy is awful. As Rep. Gaetz correctly stated on CNN Sunday morning: “The one thing everybody has in common is that nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy.” In the past, Rep. Adam Schiff has referred to McCarthy as having “absolutely no reverence for the truth.” And McCarthy—after first slamming Trump both publicly and privately in the weeks after the Jan 6 as “bearing responsibility” for that attack—has since become one of Trump’s most vocal defenders, helping normalize him.
Even Democratic Rep McGovern earlier in the week slammed McCarthy as displaying “weak, ineffective, incompetent leadership.” Nothing summed up better than. McCarthy’s comment shortly before the vote Saturday when asked if he had to votes to pass the spending bill: “We’ll find out,” he added, “I like to gamble.”
That is in sharp contrast to Speaker Nancy Pelosi who did the work needed BEFORE the vote was taken so she knew the legislation would pass. Even GOP Rep. Tim Burchett stated as much last week, explaining on CNN that Pelosi would prepare in advance of any votes to ensure her caucus was on board. Buchert noted, “A lot of work goes into that,” But he added about McCarthy, “I’m not seeing that work right now. And it’s very disappointing to me.”
McCarthy objectively speaking is neither respected by his own caucus nor effective. But Democrats are about delivering policies to help Americans. And if a deal can be made to empower House Democrats to do just that, it’s a big win.
In fact, some House Democrats have even floated what could be the outlines of a deal. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)—chair of the 102-member Congressional Progressive Caucus—on Thursday noted at the outset that, “Nobody should rely on us to save McCarthy.” But Jayapal added a deal could be reached to keep McCarthy Speaker if certain conditions were met. Jayapal explained, “There are things we can do in codifying the rules of the House that would give Hakeem Jeffries, our leadership, real power over the floor, over committees, etc.” But Jayapal added, any deal would have to be part of new House rules because that is “the only way we can trust” McCarthy.
Rep. Ilhan Omar—another leading progressive in the House—shared Friday on MNSBC that she had spoken to some fellow House Democrats open to a deal to keep McCarthy as Speaker if he agreed to a 50-50 power sharing deal. Omar explained that such an agreement would mean Democrats holding 50 percent of House committees and a shared agreement on legislation brought to a vote.
But Omar—like other Democrats—made it clear neither she nor other Democrats trusted McCarthy, stating, “This is a man who really doesn’t care about his constituents. The only thing he cares about is satisfying Marjorie Taylor Greene and the crazies in his caucus, and not about his constituents and the American people.”
If Democrats can reach a deal with McCarthy to co-chair House committees, have subpoena power to call witnesses, etc.– and most importantly–have the ability to bring legislation to the House floor for a vote, a deal should be made as Jayapal, Omar and others appear open to. But of course, that deal must be codified in new House rules—not based on a handshake.
If not, then let McCarthy be removed. And to those worried the GOP will then pick a more extreme Speaker, let them. After all, MAGA Republican/bigot and Jan 6 defender Marjorie Taylor Greene perhaps should be Speaker given she is where the energy of the GOP is today. Let America see the cancer known as MAGA on full display as Speaker.
But in any event, Democrats should not be a “cheap date,” they are worth much more than that. Let McCarthy fail unless he makes concessions that empower the House Democrats to do what we do best: Enact policies that help our fellow Americans.