Democrats Will Vote To Boot McCarthy as House Speaker, Jeffries Says

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries on Tuesday recommended that members of his party vote to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his role as GOP leader.

"Given [House Republicans'] unwillingness to break from extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes," Jeffries said in a letter to fellow Democrats ahead of the vote on a challenge to McCarthy's leadership by a fellow Republican.

Earlier on Tuesday, McCarthy teed up the vote for around 1:30 p.m. Representative Matt Gaetz, a McCarthy antagonist, on Monday introduced a "motion to vacate" that would force a vote to remove the speaker. If successful, it would be the first time in U.S. history that House lawmakers voted their leader out.

"I'm confident I'll hold on," McCarthy told reporters.

Democrats claim McCarthy is untrustworthy after he broke an agreement on spending with Democratic President Joe Biden. They are angered by McCarthy's decision to green-light an impeachment investigation of the president.

Several said they would not vote to keep McCarthy in office.

"I believe Kevin McCarthy is a man unburdened by shame or principle," Democratic representative Gerry Connolly said.

There is also little inclination in the White House to help McCarthy, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

McCarthy said he did not expect Democratic support.

The House could hold a straight up or down vote on Gaetz's motion or could hold a vote to sideline it. If McCarthy hangs on to his job, Gaetz could potentially push for another vote.

Several Republicans said they were sticking with McCarthy as they emerged from a closed-door meeting on Tuesday in which they said he received multiple standing ovations.

"I don't think there's any question that there's only one person prepared to lead our party. That's understood by over 95% of the members," said Republican representative Darrell Issa.

Gaetz did not speak to reporters after the meeting.

McCarthy's party controls the chamber by a narrow 221-212 majority, and it would take as few as five Republican defections to threaten his hold on power if all Democrats also vote against him.

Gaetz and other hardline Republicans are angered that McCarthy relied on Democratic votes to pass a temporary funding extension on Saturday that headed off a partial government shutdown. A faction of about 20 Republicans, Gaetz included, had forced McCarthy's hand by repeatedly blocking other legislation.

Gaetz was one of more than a dozen Republicans who repeatedly voted against McCarthy's bid for speaker in January. McCarthy ultimately secured the gavel after 15 rounds of voting.

Gaetz allies said they were frustrated by the slow pace of spending legislation on McCarthy's watch.

"We took a whole month of August off. I think that that's pretty telling," said Republican representative Tim Burchett, who said he would vote to oust McCarthy.

But over the past few days, other Republicans have said Gaetz is motivated by a hunger for publicity, a chance to win higher office, or resentment over an ongoing ethics probe into possible sexual misconduct and illicit drug use.

"It seems very personal with Matt. It doesn't look like he's looking out for the country or the institution," McCarthy said.

Gaetz has denied wrongdoing and said he is not motivated by a dislike of McCarthy.

Other Republicans said they should focus on legislating, rather than infighting.

"This country does not need more drama," said Republican representative Steve Womack.

(Reporting by Makini Brice, David Morgan, Richard Cowan, Nandita Bose, Moira Warburton, Susan Heavey, and Doina Chiacu; editing by Andy Sullivan, Jonathan Oatis, and Alistair Bell)