McCarthy finds that even a Biden impeachment inquiry isn’t enough for GOP’s right flank

Kevin McCarthy walks through the halls of the Capitol
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is confronting the same problem that has driven Republicans before him from the job — trying to lead a caucus split between what’s left of the traditional party and a far-right element.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Angry, frustrated and unable to lead a fractured and unruly Republican majority, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday told his colleagues threatening to oust him: Do it.

The embattled Republican leader from Bakersfield essentially dared his hard-right flank to hold a vote to remove him from the job.

If you’re going to do it, go ahead and try, McCarthy told the Republicans behind closed doors.


“File the f— motion,” McCarthy said, according to those in the private meeting.

The Bakersfield congressman’s ideological flexibility, fundraising prowess and management of Donald Trump have helped him hold House Republicans together as they head into the midterm elections. Now he’s on the verge of gaining the prize he has long desired.

Oct. 29, 2022

With a government shutdown looming, McCarthy is confronting the same stubborn problem that has driven Republicans before him from the speaker’s job — trying to lead a ruptured GOP majority that’s split between what’s left of the traditional party and a harder-right element, in recent years largely allied with former President Trump.

Even his decision to open an impeachment inquiry against President Biden did little this week to appease the demands of the Freedom Caucus and others as they threaten to shut down the government in pursuit of deep spending cuts or move to a motion to oust him from his post.

“I showed frustration in here because I am frustrated with some people in the conference,” McCarthy said after the meeting in the Capitol basement as lawmakers were wrapping up for the week.

“But when we come back, we’re going to get this done. Nobody wins in a government shutdown.”


This may be the toughest moment yet for McCarthy, who is trying to survive his first year as House speaker and live to fight another day.

Bowing to GOP hard-liners’ threats to oust him as speaker, McCarthy orders an impeachment inquiry over Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings before his father was president.

Sept. 12, 2023

But now, after promises made and possibly dashed, he has barely any days left.

At the moment McCarthy has just nine working days to pass the spending bills needed to fund the government or risk a politically risky federal shutdown.

An interruption in government services would ripple across the country, and would probably hurt his party politically as Republicans are blamed for the disruption and disarray.

Led by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a core group of McCarthy critics is holding over him the threat of removal unless he meets their demands.

A top Trump ally, Gaetz reiterated the hard-right flank’s many demands after McCarthy’s meeting — single-subject spending bills, a subpoena for Hunter Biden to testify in the impeachment inquiry and other priorities.

“So instead of emotionally cursing, let’s do this,” Gaetz chided. “We must begin immediately. Pull yourself together, Kevin!”

None of the hard-right opponents of McCarthy rose to speak during the private morning meeting — in fact, few even showed up.

But McCarthy still addressed them directly — and profanely.

“Kevin doesn’t live in fear about this,” said Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.).

McCarthy has prided himself on being a survivor who rose from the ranks over nearly 20 years to lead House Republicans.

At the start of the year, he suffered through 14 votes in his reach for the speaker’s gavel before colleagues finally agreed to give it to him on the 15th vote.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — a hard-right Republican but a close McCarthy ally — summarized the speaker’s message.

“He said, ‘If you want to throw in a motion to vacate, that’s fine. I didn’t survive 15 rounds for nothing and I’ll survive another 15 rounds,’” Greene said.

That said, there still is no viable plan for the House to pass the bills needed to keep the government running past Sept. 30, when current funding runs out, risking the shutdown.

Freedom Caucus conservatives are demanding deeper cuts than McCarthy agreed to in a budget deal with Biden earlier this year — and even deeper than
the speaker promised he would fight for when he agreed to their demands during his election to become speaker.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York said, “House Republicans have made clear that they are determined to shut down the government and try to jam their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of Americans.”

The speaker is struggling to control his caucus, raising the risk of a government shutdown later this year. He’s projecting calm about the situation.

July 14, 2023

Jeffries said he had not talked to McCarthy this week about a solution, but he has spoken with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and they have agreed “the only way forward is a bipartisan path that funds the government at the current fiscal year levels.”

The Senate, meanwhile, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats, pushed ahead with a rare and overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, 91 to 7, to advance a package of spending bills toward final passage, setting up a showdown with the Republican House.

McCarthy told the lawmakers to go home for the weekend and be prepared to stay in session next week until they get the job done.

“I don’t walk away from a battle,” the speaker said.

Asked if he had a plan for the week ahead, McCarthy said later: “I always have a plan. Doesn’t mean it happens.”

“I had a plan for this week; didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned,” he said.

Exasperated, McCarthy had already showed signs of strain the night before.

As he left the Capitol, his voice hoarse and his dry-cleaning bags of fresh shirts in hand, McCarthy scoffed when asked about the conservatives’ latest demands for spending cuts.

“Welcome to my world,” McCarthy said, as the grand Memorial Door slammed behind him.