Allies of toppled former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are fuming at Democrats for failing to back him amid his historic ejection — leaving Democrats arguing the GOP has no one to blame but themselves.
Republican ire hasn’t just been centered on the eight members of their own conference who ignited and backed the vote to oust McCarthy, but also the Democrats who voted in unison to remove him.
And Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) exacted some swift revenge — booting both Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) from their hideaway offices in the Capitol.
The move came after McCarthy called out Pelosi, who is in California for the funeral of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), claiming she failed to keep a promise made during his 15-vote battle for the Speakership to back him if his members ever sought to vote him out.
Staff began cleaning out the office late Tuesday night.
“It’s fairly petty stuff. And the odd thing to me is we’re getting blowback from moderate Republicans who really could have fixed this internally months ago and should have fixed it months ago, but they’re mad, they’re mad at the Democrats now for not bailing out McCarthy. I just find it, frankly, kind of immature,” said Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.).
“This is their caucus, their internal voting, their internal meetings. It’s really incumbent on them to take care of their own problem and take care of their own internal civil war.”
Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) told reporters Wednesday that Pelosi’s office space would be given to McCarthy.
But the offices are just the physical targets of a GOP seething that Democrats enabled a coup from the eight Republicans.
It’s an assertion Democrats wholly reject, noting that McCarthy has repeatedly capitulated to the MAGA wing of his party, including by launching an impeachment inquiry into President Biden — and by frequently failing to negotiate with Democrats, even as his job hung in the balance.
Graves vented to reporters Wednesday, saying his colleague Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who spearheaded the movement, was “played” by Democrats.
“Let me say it again, the House of Representatives is frozen. And it’s frozen because Matt Gaetz was played like a drum by [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)], by Nancy Pelosi and others … with just eight Republicans getting together with 208 Democrats. Every single Democrat in this chamber threw out the Speaker of the House with only eight so-called Republicans,” he said.
But it was clear his frustration wasn’t just centered on the other side of the aisle, at one point calling Gaetz an “arsonist” and again dragging him for raising money off the whole episode.
“If we’re going to continue to have clowns like Matt Gaetz as part of the Republican conference, as part of this Congress, then you’re going to have to have rules in place that prevent him from doing his charade. Every single week, every single month, where he goes out and he does his thing where he creates some manufactured crisis” that he then uses to raise money, Graves said.
“I think this should be illegal. I think people should be in jail for this crap,” Graves said.
“He’s the arsonist who lit the house on fire.”
McCarthy aired frustration with those members, as well as Pelosi, during a surprisingly upbeat press conference Tuesday night after the vote.
“They don’t get to say they’re conservative because they’re angry and they’re chaotic,” he said.
McCarthy said he spoke to Pelosi as he was struggling to secure the Speakership, in round after round of voting, saying she told him to accept the deal from conservative conference members in which just one member could call a vote to oust him.
“She said, ‘Just give it to ‘em. I’ll always back you up,’” he said. “I think today was a political decision by the Democrats.”
Pelosi, in a statement, noted she was in California during the sudden call of the vote, and she was unable to retrieve her belongings as they were removed from her office.
“This eviction is a sharp departure from tradition. As Speaker, I gave former Speaker [Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)] a significantly larger suite of offices for as long as he wished,” she said.
“Office space doesn’t matter to me, but it seems to be important to them. Now that the new Republican Leadership has settled this important matter, let’s hope they get to work on what’s truly important for the American people.”
McHenry did not respond to a request for comment about the rationale for his decision.
Some Republicans felt that Democrats should have sided with McCarthy.
“You have [House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)] acting like he’s trying to work in a bipartisan manner. He says we’re going to continue putting people over politics. That is the biggest load of garbage I’ve ever heard. They literally just aligned themselves with Matt Gaetz and the MAGA extremists to burn down the House. And they act as though you know, ‘We stand up for democracy; we stand up for our institutions.’ This was an opportunity to actually show leadership, real leadership, not nonsensical BS,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said in response to a question from The Hill.
“Frankly, it’s not serious to hear their outrage about the need for bipartisanship. They’re not serious about it. Because if you were, this was a moment to actually stand up for the institution and say, ‘Yeah, we’re not playing part to this.’ Yes, it’s Republicans’ responsibility. We’re in the majority. But they aligned themselves and facilitated this. They can’t act like they have clean hands in this.”
But Democrats were quick to point out that McCarthy made a number of strategic errors: caving to insistence from some in the conference that allowed for just one member to call for a motion to vacate, repeatedly giving in to right-wing demands and refusing to negotiate with Democrats but then blaming them at various turns, including ahead of the vote to eject him.
McCarthy also could have delayed the vote to oust him for 48 hours to give himself more time to coordinate with colleagues — an option he did not avail himself of.
“I get that they’re upset about what happened, and you’re sort of flailing around to find some sort of messaging to explain it. But this is the chickens coming home to roost on the way they’ve run their caucus and allowed it to be run since the 15 votes in January. And they really have only themselves to blame for where they are right now,” Ivey said.
Ivey said McCarthy’s firing wasn’t entirely surprising, as his agreeing to let just one member bring a vote to remove him from office left him incredibly vulnerable.
“He changed that rule. And I think all of us knew in January that that would end up being a problem for him, just because it took him 15 votes to get it. And so you knew there was a solid core of people who were going to be ready to hit the eject button at any time. And, you know, in some ways it’s surprising it took this long for it to happen.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) also pushed back when asked about the role Democrats played in McCarthy’s removal.
“You’re talking about the chaos in the Republican Party. Look, right-wing Republicans have to solve the problems that right-wing Republicans create. And so the civil war within the Republican Party has nothing to do with us,” he said, noting Democrats have consistently pushed for Jeffries to lead the House.
“I voted 15 times for Hakeem Jeffries for Speaker, and I will vote 15,000 more times for Hakeem Jeffries for Speaker.”
Mychael Schnell contributed.