McCarthy dismisses House Freedom Caucus members’ threats to oust him over debt ceiling deal

Washington — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he is not concerned about threats from House Freedom Caucus members to oust him from the speakership over the debt ceiling deal with President Biden

“Look, everybody has the ability to do what they want,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “But if you think I’m going to wake up in the morning and be ever worried about that, no. Doesn’t bother me. If someone thinks they have the right to do it. Call the motion.” 

In order to win over conservative members in his bid to become speaker earlier this year, McCarthy agreed to a House rule that allows a single member to call for a “motion to vacate,” which forces a vote on removing the House leader. The no-confidence vote would need only a simple majority to oust him. 

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida suggested a vote of no confidence could come if McCarthy has to rely on Democrats to pass the debt ceiling legislation.

“If a majority of Republicans are against a piece of legislation and you use Democrats to pass it, that would immediately be a black-letter violation of the deal we had with McCarthy,” Gaetz told Newsmax on Tuesday. “And it would likely trigger an immediate motion to vacate.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to members of the media while arriving to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to members of the media while arriving to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. 

Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

McCarthy has said he expects a majority of Republicans to vote in favor of the bill, which cleared a key procedural hurdle Tuesday evening. Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told “Face the Nation” on Sunday that it was his understanding that at least 150 Republicans would vote for the deal, but McCarthy would not say Wednesday whether he would be able to deliver that many votes. 

GOP Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina said Tuesday at a news conference with House Freedom Caucus members that the bill “must pass with less than half of the Republican conference,” and called it a “career-defining vote for every Republican.” 

“To my colleagues in the Republican conference, you have a few hours to make up your mind,” Bishop said. “You are the key to our being able to reacquire the unity. Now it’s going to take some steps, by the way, because the leadership decision to forfeit that is going to have to be dealt with.” 

Bishop later told Politico that he was considering trying to oust McCarthy from the speakership. 

“Absolutely,” Bishop said. “It is inescapable to me. It has to be done.”

But Bishop also told the news outlet that he wants support from his colleagues before such a move. 

In a House Freedom Caucus call on Monday, Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado floated the no-confidence vote, but chairman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania suggested it might be too soon for such a move, according to NBC News. He later said he had only brought it up to see if “they were considering a motion to vacate as a result of a broken promise.” 

Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, who was one of the Republican negotiators of the debt ceiling deal, acknowledged Wednesday that there was “some trust lost” with House Freedom Caucus members. 

Ellis Kim contributed reporting. 

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