(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s job was on a knife’s edge Tuesday as Democratic leaders said they wouldn’t help him stave off a Republican revolt.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York said Tuesday shortly before a key test vote on the ouster effort that Democratic party leaders wouldn’t vote to keep McCarthy as House Speaker.
“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Jeffries said in a message to fellow Democratic lawmakers.
According to a Republican aide close to GOP centrists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, no Democrats have indicated they are willing to save McCarthy.
Democrats in private talks want what amounts to a form of power-sharing in return for helping McCarthy suppress the rebellion, seeking more authority on the House’s critical Rules Committee or more Democratic seats on other committees, a Republican leadership team member said.
But a defiant McCarthy, acknowledging he didn’t know whether he had enough votes to keep his job, told reporters Tuesday morning he wouldn’t agree to sharing power with Democrats.
“That doesn’t work,” McCarthy said. “We’re in the majority. We don’t surrender.”
Agreeing to those Democratic demands would alienate the Republican rank-and-file, putting McCarthy in an impossible position, the member of Republican leadership said.
Democrats in an ebullient closed-door meeting vented against the speaker and emerged saying they are in no mood to bail him out. During the meeting, Democratic leaders showed a video of a McCarthy media appearance in which he accused Democrats of trying to shut down the government.
McCarthy “is the source of the chaos we don’t like,” Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, said after the meeting. “There was outrage.”
Representative Jared Golden of Maine, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats, said in a statement he doesn’t plan to help McCarthy.
“I see no reason to vote for him,” Golden said.
McCarthy plans to trigger a vote Tuesday to block the ouster attempt orchestrated by dissident conservative Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida. As few as five ultra-conservatives could overthrow McCarthy unless Democrats help the speaker, either by providing some support or avoiding a vote, lowering the threshold the speaker needs to defeat the effort.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers met in separate closed-door party conferences Tuesday morning. Republicans leaving their meeting were vitriolic toward Gaetz.
Republican Representative Derrick Van Orden, a Wisconsin Republican, said he was tired of Gaetz demanding his own way in the House.
“The vast, vast, vast majority of the conference will stand by the speaker,” said Representative Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican.
After stopping an effort by conservative Republicans to shut down the government over the weekend, McCarthy faces a motion to vacate, a rarely used procedural move that would force a vote on whether he can remain as speaker. Given the narrow Republican majority, a handful of defections from his own party would end his speakership.
Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, said bipartisan talks are underway to raise the threshold of support needed to trigger a vote on removing the speaker.
Gaetz, a ferocious critic of the speaker, cited McCarthy’s bipartisan deal to avert a US government shutdown as the catalyst for his motion.
McCarthy on Tuesday stood by the bipartisan agreement to avert a shutdown and told reporters he believes he’ll survive Gaetz’s maneuver.
“Matt has planned this all along,” the speaker said.
In an interview on MSNBC, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said that Democrats would decide what to do as a group ahead of the vote.
“This is a vote of conscience in many ways, and I am interested in hearing what every single member of the House Democratic family has to say on this issue, and then we’ll come to a collective decision at the end,” he said.
--With assistance from Ryan Teague Beckwith, Katherine Ackley Zeller, Zach C. Cohen, Maeve Sheehey and Jonathan Tamari.
(Updates with Jeffries letter beginning with second paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the party affiliation of Fitzpatrick)
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