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McCarthy is running for office as House Speaker

“I will survive”
McCarthy is running for office as House Speaker

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The US Congress was only able to avert the impending shutdown a few days ago. However, the difficult compromise has had consequences for the Republicans. The head of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, has to fend off an attempt to remove him from within his own ranks.

Party friends Kevin McCarthy and Matt Gaetz are far from friends. Rather, the two Republicans are engaged in a bitter power struggle that could plunge the US House of Representatives into further chaos. The ultra-right MP Gaetz wants to push McCarthy from the top of the congressional chamber; the ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump submitted a corresponding request on Monday.

It is the continuation – and the current climax – of a conflict within the Republican faction that has been simmering since the opposition party took over the majority in the House of Representatives at the beginning of the year. At the time, McCarthy needed a record 15 ballots to be elected leader of the House of Congress.

The reason was the resistance of Gaetz and other right-wing Republicans who did not want to support the politician from California. The group, made up of die-hard Trump supporters, forced the 58-year-old to make painful concessions in order to end their blockade. McCarthy agreed to a regulation according to which a single member of parliament can submit a request for his removal. This makes the “speaker,” as the chairman of the House of Representatives is called in the United States, particularly vulnerable – and a hostage to right-wing hardliners in his own ranks.

Those I called, the spirits

Now Gaetz wants to use this regulation to throw McCarthy out of office. The background is the dispute over the budget block that was averted at the last minute by Congress at the weekend. McCarthy, with the help of President Joe Biden’s Democrats, approved an interim budget to avert an impending shutdown. In doing so, he angered the 20 or so right-wing Republicans who are pushing for massive spending cuts and accepting the budget freeze with all its consequences.

Gaetz, an agitator from Florida known for polemical statements, accuses McCarthy of violating internal party commitments to austerity. The chairman of the House of Representatives even agreed to a “secret deal” with Biden to approve new aid to Ukraine that was not included in the interim budget. “We have to move forward with new leadership that is trustworthy,” said the 41-year-old on the news channel CNN. “The one thing they all have in common is that no one trusts McCarthy.”

McCarthy, attacked in this way, reacted with defiant fearlessness. “I will survive,” the Republican asserted, as in the famous song by Gloria Gaynor. If Gaetz is angry that he – McCarthy – prevented a shutdown, “then let’s fight this fight.”

United in deep enmity

The hostility between the two men is not new. As early as January, Gaetz was one of the Republicans who wanted to prevent McCarthy’s election as chairman of the House of Representatives. He described McCarthy as a spineless opportunist and part of the Washington political establishment: “If you want to drain the swamp, you can’t put the biggest alligator in charge of it.” In one round, Gaetz even voted for Trump, who had not even applied for the position of speaker.

In the months that followed, the two men repeatedly clashed. Gaetz accused McCarthy of not making decisive enough progress in the impeachment proceedings against Biden, which right-wing hardliners wanted. When Gaetz threatened to file a motion for his removal in mid-September, McCarthy is said to have swore at his opponents in a group meeting behind closed doors: “Then submit the damn motion.”

Hope for the Democrats

That’s exactly what Gaetz has done now. Ironically, given the narrow majority in the House of Representatives, it could be the Democrats who save McCarthy. If enough Republicans vote against the chairman, he would have to rely on Democratic votes to stay in office.

The Biden party has little sympathy for McCarthy, who made a significant contribution to the rehabilitation of the right-wing populist among the Republicans after the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 with a visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property. But his removal would have far-reaching consequences.

The House of Representatives would be unable to act until further notice, just at a time when the Democrats are deciding on new aid for Kiev and want to pass a permanent budget by mid-November after the interim solution to the budget dispute. There would also be the question of which Republican would succeed McCarthy.

“As bad as McCarthy is as a speaker, it can always get worse,” Democratic Rep. Adam Smith said Monday. “We have to take into account what comes next.”

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