House Republicans left town on Thursday after a week filled with talk of impeachment investigations into President Biden; battles over budget deals; and increasing chatter about a challenge for the gavel of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
As The Washington Post explained on Thursday, McCarthy is definitely feeling the heat:
House lawmakers left town Thursday after a dramatic three-day workweek that saw them launch a divisive impeachment inquiry and calls for the removal of Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his position, as they made little movement toward averting a government shutdown.
Republicans also weren’t able to move forward a traditionally noncontroversial defense spending bill, stymied by deep divisions in the party despite a shared goal of approving 12 individual appropriations bills.
The chaotic week brought into sharp focus the deepening divide in McCarthy’s fractious conference. With a dwindling timeline to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30, McCarthy (R-Calif.) had hoped to gather support for a short-term funding solution that would allow Republicans more time to pass long-term funding bills. But hard-right lawmakers, angry over what they say is a lack of information on top-line budget numbers, blocked a procedural vote that halted any movement on appropriations bills.
Earlier in the week, the House “Freedom Caucus” held a press conference in which they demanded significant spending cuts — beyond what a bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed to in May in order to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a catastrophic government debt default. Hardliners in the GOP caucus are putting McCarthy in an impossible position, threatening to withhold their support for a continuing resolution to fund the government unless McCarthy makes good on some vague promises that the “Freedom Caucus” claims he made back in January.
There have been increasing threats over a potential “motion to vacate the chair,” in which Republicans might try to oust McCarthy as Speaker if he doesn’t do what the hardliners demand. On Thursday, the rumormongering and backbiting finally caused McCarthy to snap:
Frustrations came to head in an explosive Thursday morning meeting, where McCarthy challenged his detractors to move or file “a f—ing motion” to remove him from his seat, according to several lawmakers and aides.
“You guys think I’m scared of a motion to vacate. Go f—ing ahead and do it. I’m not scared,” McCarthy told the House GOP conference in the closed-door meeting, according to a lawmaker in attendance who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private remarks. A motion to vacate would kick off the process that could remove McCarthy from the speakership. [Pols emphasis]
As CNN reports, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz — who will be in Colorado next Saturday for the La Plata County Republican Party’s “Lincoln Dinner” — has been one of the loudest voices threatening an attempt to oust McCarthy and fired back on Thursday with his own expletives.
“How about just move the f***ing spending bills?”
— Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz in response to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CNN, 9/14/23)
While Gaetz is obviously not one of the GOP voices calling for compromise, you’ll probably be surprised to find out who is on that list. Apparently Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn is awake and speaking out.
While it’s unclear if anybody actually listens to Lamborn, the longtime Republican from CO-05 provided his perspective in an interview with Fox 31 News:
Congress has until the end of September to pass a funding measure in order to avoid a government shutdown. U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn called it “a 50-50 proposition.”
“Those that think they’re going to get something out of it (a shutdown), they’re going to be sadly mistaken,” the Republican said this week on “Colorado Point of View.”..
…Lamborn is Colorado’s only Republican lawmaker on Capitol Hill who is not a part of the House Freedom Caucus. He said it’s been difficult to negotiate, though, because “people keep moving the goalpost on you as you try to march down the field.”
Lamborn said despite the House Freedom Caucus saying they don’t want a government shutdown, the group will “achieve the things they say they don’t want because they’re not being very reasonable.” [Pols emphasis]
It would be bad for the country and the economy as a whole if there were a federal government shutdown. History also makes it clear that the party in power in the House — in this case Republicans — will take the blame for any disruption in government funding of services. Speaking to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell earlier this week, Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck didn’t mince words in preparing for political disaster:
“They clearly hurt Republicans more than Democrats,” said Buck. “We will be blamed . We are in charge in the House, so if there is blame, it’s going to come our way, and it’s going to come our way right before a Presidential Election year.”
The House “Freedom Caucus” isn’t backing down from their demands and may escalate things if one of the group’s members calls for a motion to vacate the chair and replace McCarthy. It’s a no-win situation that Republicans have forced upon themselves — a situation that is only going to get worse as both sides dig in deeper.