20231001 kevin
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Image Credit: Reuters

Washington: The future of Republican US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy looked in serious jeopardy Sunday, with hardliners in his own party moving to oust him and Democrats blaming him for bringing the government close to a total shutdown.

McCarthy brokered a last-gasp deal late Saturday to keep the government funded for another 45 days, but right-wing Republicans were furious that it didn't include the deep spending cuts they demanded, while Democrats said the speaker had reneged on promises aimed at avoiding a budget crisis in the first place.

A leading hardline Republican said Sunday he would move to oust McCarthy as House speaker for striking the deal with Democrats.

"I do intend to file a motion to vacate Speaker McCarthy this week," Congressman Matt Gaetz told CNN. "I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid."

Gaetz is a leading figure within a small group of far-right Republican legislators who brought the government to the brink of shutdown with their refusal to adopt fresh federal funding without deep spending cuts.

US President Joe Biden lambasted both McCarthy and the hardliners Sunday for failing to live up to an agreement forged around a debt crisis months ago that was meant to avoid a damaging shutdown fight - and for stripping out support for Ukraine.

"Stop playing games, get this done," Biden said during a press conference, adding that he was "sick and tired of the brinksmanship, and so are the American people."

"It's time to end governing by crisis and keep your word when you give it," he said.

Speaking to CNN, Gaetz acknowledged that, despite vocal anger on the left, Democrats could nonetheless back McCarthy as speaker, particularly after he brokered the bipartisan shutdown compromise.

"The only way Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House at the end of this coming week is if Democrats bail him out," Gaetz said. "Now, they probably will."

'I will survive'

McCarthy had only barely survived a bruising battle in January involving a record 15 rounds of voting to become the 55th speaker of the House of Representatives.

In order to gain the gavel, he was forced to make concessions to his party's far-right bloc, including the rule change - which Gaetz is now promising to use - that makes it possible for a single member to call a vote for a new speaker of the House.

McCarthy was left extremely vulnerable to factions in his own party when Republicans won only a razor-thin majority in the House in last November's midterm elections.

But he remained confident Sunday he would not succumb to a motion to remove him, telling "Face the Nation" on CBS: "I will survive."

If Gaetz is "upset because he tried to push us in a shutdown and I made sure government didn't shut down, then let's have that fight," McCarthy said.

Pro-McCarthy Republicans are already vowing support for their leader.

Republican Mike Lawler said the disruption from a removal vote would only impede the work that Congress must now accomplish by mid-November if it hopes to make the next deadline.

Defending the shutdown deal, he told ABC's "This Week" that "the only responsible thing to do was to keep the government open and funded while we complete our work."

But in a sneak preview of likely pushback from elements on the left, progressive lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told CNN she would "absolutely" vote to oust McCarthy, adding that it was "not up to Democrats to save Republicans from themselves."

If Congress had failed to keep the government open, the closures would have begun just after midnight (0400 GMT Sunday) and would have delayed salaries for millions of federal employees and military personnel.

The stopgap measure buys legislators time to negotiate full-year spending bills for the rest of fiscal 2024.