Retribution And Fundraising Challenges After Kevin McCarthy's Ouster
Retribution and fundraising challenges after Kevin McCarthy's ousteras some of his supporters issued a thinly veiled warning to GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina: If you vote to remove McCarthy, the party might reconsider its willingness to provide financial support for your reelection campaign.
This warning to Mace, as recounted by an insider, underscores the deep divisions within the Republican party over the speaker's fate, where financial assistance often serves as a potent tool in the world of Washington politics.
Despite the potential consequences for her competitive reelection bid, Mace, a Republican, ultimately aligned herself with seven other GOP lawmakers and all Democrats to thwart McCarthy. However, this may not be the sole repercussion she faces for her career-defining act of defiance. Sources have indicated that discussions are underway within the Republican Governance Group regarding the possibility of ejecting her from the moderate-leaning caucus.
This is just one of numerous instances showcasing the fallout following Tuesday's shocking vote to remove the current speaker, which has sent shockwaves through both sides of the Capitol and left a deeply divided GOP struggling to navigate the aftermath. While much of the outrage is directed at Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who led the charge in the rebellion against McCarthy, Republicans are also expressing their ire toward their Democratic counterparts. They are frustrated that Democrats sided with Gaetz, creating chaos in the House and allowing McCarthy to face repercussions for government funding votes.
This turmoil unfolds against the backdrop of a GOP leadership scramble to determine McCarthy's successor, even as rank-and-file Republicans caution the potential speaker candidates that there is substantial work required to mend the strained relationships within their deeply divided caucus.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, a North Dakota Republican and a close ally of McCarthy, noted that there are many "raw nerves" and emphasized that the future speaker candidates must unequivocally commit to ensuring that no single GOP member can unseat a sitting speaker again.
The next speaker better figure out how to negotiate with the exotics before you become speaker because you’re sure as hell gonna have to do it after you’re speaker. This isn’t a normal election. And I think too many people are treating it like one.- Rep. Kelly Armstrong
The high-stakes drama has not only triggered discussions about removing GOP colleagues from the conference but has also endangered critical bipartisan working relationships just ahead of another imminent government funding deadline. Additionally, it has prompted serious internal discussions regarding potential overhauls to House rules. These developments further complicate the aspirations of any speaker candidates seeking to secure the gavel.
Furthermore, according to Democratic sources, this turmoil has resulted in what some describe as real estate retaliation: it is reported that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steny Hoyer were abruptly removed from their Capitol office spaces at the behest of McCarthy. This all unfolds while the House remains in a state of paralysis until a new speaker is elected.
"There was a meeting last night, as you may know, of Republicans and that room would have devolved into I think physical attacks on one another if people stayed in there for a long period of time," said Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves, a McCarthy ally. "People are mad. It is justified for them to be frustrated by what happened yesterday."
Gaetz, who has long been a source of frustration for his colleagues and has used his campaign fundraising efforts to bolster his attempt to oust McCarthy, is likely to face the most criticism from fellow Republicans. Sources have suggested that it wouldn't be surprising if the question of whether to remove Gaetz from the party conference is raised during their next official meeting, potentially leading to a motion to that effect.
It's important to note that admission into the Republican conference is a privilege, not an inherent right. However, expelling a member would require a two-thirds majority to succeed.
"In my opinion, yes," stated Rep. Mike Lawler, a freshman from New York, when asked about the possibility of expelling Gaetz from the House GOP Conference. He described Gaetz's behavior as "disgraceful."
On the other hand, Rep. Greg Murphy, a Republican from North Carolina, indicated that he would withhold judgment until the House Ethics Committee completes its investigation into Gaetz's actions before deciding whether to support his expulsion.
"I think it's very sad that this is obviously politically personally motivated," Murphy said of Gaetz's push to oust McCarthy. "It was a personal animosity towards the speaker."
Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, who chairs the Republican Governance Group, took an even stronger stance, asserting that none of the eight lawmakers who opposed McCarthy should be retained as members of their conference.
I don't see how they can really be part of a conference when they come on the inside, listen to what is going on, and then go outside and lob bombs into the middle. It's a waste of time having conversations with these people.- Rep. Dave Joyce
Some members are also seething over the fact that Gaetz and Mace have been using their decision to oust McCarthy as a fundraising tool, a practice that Graves contended "should be prohibited illegal."
"I can tell you one thing about Mr. Gaetz, is that Mr. Gaetz is only doing this for himself and I believe that he should be looked at for an expulsion," Ohio Republican Rep. Max Miller told reporters, though he added he hasn’t made up his mind yet about how he would vote.
Georgia Rep. Austin Scott added, "Those eight people are anarchists, and they’re chaos caucus members."
In another indication of the deteriorating situation, Sen. Markwayne Mullin, a former House member and a staunch ally of McCarthy, made explicit accusations about Gaetz.
"He’d brag about how he would crush ED medicine and chase it with an energy drink so he could go all night," the Oklahoma Republican told reporters.
Sharing a statement with reporters, Gaetz said Mullin’s accusations have no merit.
I don't think Markwayne Mullin and I have said 20 words to each other on the House floor. This is a lie from someone who doesn't know me and who is coping with the death of the political career of his friend Kevin. Thoughts and prayers.- Rep. Matt Gaetz
Republicans, particularly those on the moderate spectrum, are equally incensed with their Democratic counterparts, some of whom had initially hinted at supporting McCarthy but ultimately voted in alignment with their party to remove the speaker.
Members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes both Republicans and Democrats, are now contemplating a collective departure from the group, potentially rendering it irrelevant. According to a Republican lawmaker, Republican members of the caucus will convene as a unified body next week to determine their future course of action.
This caucus, equally composed of both parties, had played a key role in formulating a bipartisan government funding plan and had been engaged in discussions about collaborating on an infrequently used procedural mechanism to avert a potential government shutdown, an issue Congress may once again confront on November 17.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, the Republican co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, issued a scathing statement on Wednesday, admonishing members from both parties and cautioning that achieving bipartisanship in the future will be challenging.
"The cause of bipartisanship, and the institution of Congress, took a major hit yesterday when a small group of extremists, aided and abetted by a larger group of enablers, put their personal grievances and political interests ahead of our country," he said.
There are indications that Democrats are eager to turn the page on this tumultuous chapter in Congress. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who played a pivotal role in the Democratic decision not to come to McCarthy's rescue, released a statement on Wednesday expressing well wishes for McCarthy and highlighting their "respectful, communicative, and forward-looking relationship."
Given the Republican party's strong desire to avoid a repeat of the chaos that led to McCarthy's removal on the House floor, especially as they aim to retain their narrow majority in the upcoming year, some Republicans are now actively advocating for measures that would make it more challenging for an individual member to initiate a vote for the removal of a speaker.
For certain Republicans, this has become a condition for their support in the speaker election. This proposed change would further complicate the path to the speakership, as hardliners insist on preserving the rules that McCarthy had accepted to secure the gavel back in January.
"The ability for one person to vacate the speaker of the House will keep a chokehold on this body through 2024," the business-centric Main Street Group said in a statement on Wednesday. "Any candidate for speaker must explain to us how what happened on Tuesday will never happen again."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, known for his reluctance to involve himself in the often tumultuous House proceedings, urged Republicans to eliminate this particular tool.
"I have no advice to give to House Republicans except one - I hope whoever the next speaker is gets rid of the motion to vacate," McConnell said. "I think it makes the speaker's job impossible. The American people expect us to have a functioning government."