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Kevin McCarthy could lose the speakership this afternoon

Kevin McCarthy’s leadership of House Republicans is on the verge of collapse as he faces a Tuesday vote to remove him as speaker.

The revolt against McCarthy is led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and a handful of conservative Republicans who have long complained that the speaker works with Democrats too often. If McCarthy is removed, the House, which has been in disarray for much of the year, could descend further into chaos, with a small group of GOP hardliners demanding further concessions for electing a new Republican speaker. And without the Bakersfield Republican in the speaker’s chair, California, which lost its senior senator just last week, could see its power in Congress diminished even further.

Gaetz, after months of threats, filed a motion to oust McCarthy late Monday night, taking advantage of chamber rules that allow any lawmaker to force a quick vote to boot the speaker. The House is scheduled to vote on Gaetz’s motion Tuesday afternoon.

If all Democrats vote against McCarthy, Gaetz only needs four Republicans to side with him to oust the speaker. Ahead of the vote, McCarthy said he would not make a deal with Democrats to save his job. Democrats signaled they would not rescue McCarthy from his right-wing enemies.

“We are ready to find bipartisan common ground,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, late Tuesday morning. “Our extreme colleagues have shown no willingness to do the same. They must find a way to end the House Republican Civil War.”

As of noon Tuesday, it appeared Gaetz had enough votes to oust McCarthy. At least four GOP lawmakers—Andy Biggs and Eli Crane of Arizona, Tim Burchett of Tennessee and Bob Good of Virginia — had signaled they would not save the speaker.

It would be the first time in U.S. history that this mechanism has been used to successfully oust a sitting House speaker. Gaetz has yet to suggest a name to replace McCarthy. McCarthy has likely already chosen an acting speaker to serve in his place temporarily if he is removed, but the person’s identity has not yet been revealed.

McCarthy has been pressured by conservatives in his party who are peeved at his willingness to break bread with Democrats. On Saturday, the speaker relied on Democratic votes to avert a government shutdown; earlier this year, he worked with Democrats to suspend the nation’s debt ceiling so the United States could pay its bills.

Gaetz has sought to label those actions as a betrayal of the GOP and proof that McCarthy is not fit to lead the party. Gaetz also alleged McCarthy made a “secret deal” to help Biden deliver funding to help Ukraine in its war against Russia. (McCarthy said this is untrue.)

The showdown is cementing McCarthy as one of the weakest speakers in recent memory.

McCarthy’s leadership has repeatedly been questioned by far-right members in his caucus, who harness the GOP’s slim majority and withhold their votes to force the speaker to bend to their will. In exchange for their votes in January, McCarthy restored rules that made it easy for any member of the House to move to overthrow him — the same rules that are causing him so much trouble now.

McCarthy’s possible ejection from the speakership would be the latest blow to the power and reach of California’s congressional delegation, following former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s exit from House leadership and the recent death of longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein. If McCarthy is defeated, Democratic Reps. Pete Aguilar of Redlands and Ted Lieu of Torrance will be the only Californians left in leadership in either chamber of Congress.

But McCarthy’s politics are so far removed from the average California voter that Democrats aren’t worried.

“He hasn’t really fought for California to begin with. And in fact, in many cases in the past, he’s done things that are very inimical to the interests of California,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), whom McCarthy kicked off the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year, told The Times. “At the end of the day, the country needs a speaker that can be relied upon. We don’t trust him, their members don’t trust him, and you need a certain degree of trust to be the speaker.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) told The Times that “there is a high degree of trust in our leadership” among Democrats.

A handful of Democrats might defect, but it doesn’t appear that they will be able to save McCarthy. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told reporters that he was “considering everything” and might vote present rather than voting with Democrats. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he told The Times.

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