US House of Representatives speaker Kevin McCarthy faced a threat to his leadership on Monday as a right-wing fellow Republican, Matt Gaetz, said he would try to oust him from the role this week, a move that could plunge Congress into crisis days after dodging a federal government shutdown.
Mr Gaetz, who has clashed with Mr McCarthy for months, said he would file a motion that would set up a vote to remove Mr McCarthy as speaker.
“We have a lot of folks in Congress who I think would be very capable to serve as speaker. We need to rebuild trust,” Mr Gaetz told reporters. He did not say who he had in mind, or whether he had the votes to succeed.
Mr McCarthy leads a narrow and fractious 221-212 majority whose members in recent weeks have repeatedly blocked measures he has brought to the House floor, meaning that as few as five defections from his party could threaten his hold on power, if Democrats all vote against him.
Mr McCarthy said on Sunday he expected he would survive the threat to his job.
Mr Gaetz, from Florida, was one of more than a dozen Republicans who repeatedly voted against Mr McCarthy’s bid for the speaker role in January. Mr McCarthy ultimately secured the gavel after 15 rounds of voting.
No US House speaker has ever been removed from the position that puts the holder second in line in succession for the presidency after the vice-president.
Mr Gaetz was angered by Mr McCarthy’s move to pass a short-term funding bill on Saturday with support from opposition Democrats to keep the government fully operating and avoid a shutdown.
Mr Gaetz said he had spoken to former president Donald Trump about his effort. Mr Trump is the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, despite facing four criminal indictments and several civil cases.
Mr Gaetz and a group of other hardline House Republicans insist on deep spending cuts that would break a deal Mr McCarthy agreed to with President Joe Biden in May, after the US came within days of defaulting on its $31.4 trillion debt.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries has not said if his caucus would join right-wing Republicans to help topple Mr McCarthy or if Democrats might support him in exchange for political or legislative favours.
Multiple moves by Mr McCarthy moves have angered Democrats: The backing down from the deal with Mr Biden on spending, a decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into Mr Biden without first calling a vote and on Saturday giving Democrats little time to read the stopgap spending bill that he needed their support to pass.
Democrats, in theory, could demand that Mr McCarthy honours his deal with Mr Biden and abandons the effort to cut spending, to drop the impeachment inquiry or seek votes on gun and immigration legislation.
The House and Senate have until November 17th to either agree to 12 spending bills for fiscal year 2024 or pass another stopgap measure to avoid shutdowns.
The Republican speaker and his leadership team are hoping to spend this week passing more individual spending bills to fund government programmes in the new fiscal year that began on Sunday.
With only four of the dozen annual appropriations bills passed by the House before the start of this new fiscal year, House majority leader Steve Scalise has scheduled two more for debate this week.
It was unclear, however, whether the bills to keep federal energy programmes operating and the lights on in Congress itself will garner enough Republican support amid a possible wall of opposition from Democrats. – Reuters