By David Morgan and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday on a leadership challenge to Speaker Kevin McCarthy by a fellow Republican that could plunge Congress into chaos.
Republican lawmakers said the chamber will vote later in the day on a motion by Representative Matt Gaetz, a McCarthy antagonist, that could potentially remove McCarthy from his post.
If successful, it would be the first time in U.S. history that House lawmakers voted their leader out.
“I’m an optimist. I put money on myself,” McCarthy said on CNBC.
The leadership fight comes just days after Republican infighting took Washington to the brink of a partial government shutdown.
McCarthy’s party controls the chamber by a narrow 221-212 majority, and it would take as few as five Republican defections to threaten his hold on power if all Democrats vote against him.
Democrats have not said whether they will vote against McCarthy or extract concessions to keep him in power. Many say they view him as untrustworthy after he broke an agreement on spending with Democratic President Joe Biden, and are angered by his decision to green-light an impeachment investigation of the president.
“I’m 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,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told MSNBC.
Jeffries said he had spoken with McCarthy on Monday night, but declined to say what was discussed.
McCarthy told Republicans at a closed door meeting that he would not try to cut a deal with Democrats, according to Hern.
Gaetz and other far-right Republicans are angered that McCarthy relied on Democratic votes to pass a temporary funding extension on Saturday that headed off a partial government shutdown. A faction of about 20 Republicans, Gaetz included, had forced McCarthy’s hand by repeatedly blocking other legislation.
Gaetz was one of more than a dozen Republicans who repeatedly voted against McCarthy’s bid for speaker in January. McCarthy ultimately secured the gavel after 15 rounds of voting.
Other Republicans said they would stick with McCarthy and saw no credible alternative.
“I’m interested in getting more work done, and there’s no plan in place. No one’s stepped forward wanting to run for speaker. It just doesn’t make sense,” far-right Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told Reuters.
(Reporting by Susan Heavy and Doina Chiacu; additional reporting by David Morgan; editing by Andy Sullivan, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)
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