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Kevin McCarthy

Is it too late for McCarthy to save his job as speaker?

News: With his speakership on the line, Kevin McCarthy made a late Monday call to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, perhaps the only person in Washington who could save his career.

But it might be too late.

With the House on the brink of voting on a motion to oust McCarthy, there’s very strong sentiment inside the Democratic Caucus against helping the speaker, according to multiple aides and lawmakers. Jeffries won’t try to save McCarthy without approval from his Democratic colleagues. Rank-and-file Democrats won’t make a move without Jeffries’ OK.

McCarthy’s allies, for their part, say the California Republican is opposed to cutting any deals with Democrats — deals that would be necessary to blunt the support of Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) motion to vacate the speaker’s office.

So let’s be abundantly clear where things are for McCarthy — he’s in immediate danger of losing his speakership. Even though McCarthy’s allies are publicly expressing confidence, behind the scenes, his leadership team is taking the threat very seriously.

McCarthy has two days — today and tomorrow — to schedule a vote on Gaetz’s resolution. That vote could come up as early as noon today.

McCarthy is stuck. He probably can’t win with Republican votes alone. Democrats don’t trust him and are less than eager to waltz into the middle of a Republican civil war in order to prop McCarthy up.

The big moment today: The House Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference will both meet separately at 9 a.m. McCarthy’s and Jeffries’ tone, tenor and message in these sessions will go a long way toward determining what happens next.

Democratic leadership told their members to prepare for an “extended” caucus meeting. They’re also not allowing members to bring their phones or their staff into the closed-door session.

The count: There are seven House Republicans who told us last night that they plan to vote to oust McCarthy or are leaning in that direction.

If that holds, the only way McCarthy could remain speaker is if Democrats bail him out.

Let’s start with the caveat that’s necessary to repeat every time we write about vote counts — they change. Members can be persuaded one way or another. And, as of now, McCarthy has the support of roughly 200 or more House Republicans. But here’s the breakdown as of this morning:

Want to dump McCarthy: Gaetz and Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.), Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) and Eli Crane (R-Ariz.).

Lean yes: Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) and Andy Biggs (R-
Ariz.).

Undecided: Reps. Mike Cloud (R-Texas), Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), Keith Self (R-Texas), Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.).

Remember: McCarthy can only lose four votes if all members are present and casting votes. So enough opposition has already materialized to oust McCarthy absent Democratic support. Gaetz predicted that would happen Monday night after filing his motion.

No one is sure what it would look like if Democrats support the California Republican. Would Democrats want a true “coalition government” with equal representation on the Rules Committee and other key panels? What happens to the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden? Democrats aren’t going to want that to continue, but if McCarthy agrees to end the probe, the speaker would face a huge backlash internally.

Also, how does McCarthy keep fundraising for 2024 if he’s overseeing a jointly run House? What is his message to donors — especially pro-Donald Trump donors?

Democrats: Jeffries met Monday night with his leadership team — including Minority Whip Katherine Clark and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar — plus lawmakers representing disparate factions of the caucus.

According to multiple attendees, the overwhelming sense was that Democrats shouldn’t intervene to save McCarthy. And if they do, everything must go through Jeffries.

To be fair, Team McCarthy and his allies are making a series of wholly unconvincing arguments to Democrats. In conversations with otherwise gettable House Democrats, McCarthy allies are suggesting that Democrats back McCarthy — or block a vote — for the good of the institution. They are also suggesting Democrats shouldn’t line up with Gaetz.

To put it lightly, this isn’t landing well with House Democrats, who hardly see McCarthy as the beacon of institutional values.

Republicans are pointing to remarks Jeffries made eight months ago on “Pod Save America,” a progressive podcast. Jeffries said “once the House elects a speaker, the House should elect a speaker for that term — that’s kind of my view of it.” But this may be wishful thinking on the part of Republicans.

Democrats we’ve spoken to — ranging from progressives to moderates — say they will follow Jeffries’ cues here. They’re also preparing for the possibility that Republicans try to jam them by suddenly calling the vote today when they’re not ready. Both sides had attendance issues Monday night, but Democratic leaders say they’ll have as many members as possible prepared to vote today.

Republicans: McCarthy has been keeping his own counsel more than usual in recent days. During high-level GOP leadership meetings on Monday, McCarthy said nothing about the motion to vacate, but rather discussed the appropriations process and other legislative matters.

McCarthy’s chief lieutenants right now are House Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.). McCarthy’s leadership colleagues — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer — aren’t involved here.

Conservatives: The House Freedom Caucus huddled Monday night to discuss their strategy on the motion to vacate. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) attended to provide perspective on the ongoing FY2024 funding fight.

HFC Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told us after the meeting that he’s a “no” on the motion to vacate, but wasn’t shy of being critical of McCarthy’s leadership.

“Kevin has earned the situation that we have, in my opinion. But I want to be focused on what we asked for in the beginning, which is 12 separate appropriations bills,” Perry said.

— Jake Sherman, Heather Caygle, Mica Soellner and John Bresnahan

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