Moderate lawmaker Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said Saturday that threats from hardliners to unseat House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., were all bark and no bite.
Bacon told Fox News Digital that McCarthy is supported by some 200 Republicans in the House GOP conference and that a handful of insurgents, the loudest being Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., would only play into the Democrats’ hands with an attempt to unseat the speaker.
‘[Gaetz] represents two or three percent of the conference, frankly. And I do think a lot of the folks, partisan Democrats, want to see Matt force the issue because it creates problems for us,’ said Bacon, who represents Omaha and surrounding counties to the west.
‘The bottom line is the 95% should not cower to or be bullied by five people. We’ve got to do the right thing. Let’s just work in a bipartisan manner to begin with and move these five people to the side and start governing for the country,’ he added.
The immediate problem for House Republicans is the looming deadline to fund the government by Sept. 30. Divisions in the GOP conference derailed the annual defense spending bill last week, one of the 12 appropriations bills considered must-pass to prevent a government shutdown.
Most of the disagreement is centered around whether to pass a stopgap funding bill extending the current year’s spending agreements, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to fund the government for 30 days while lawmakers hash out a deal on 12 appropriations bills.
GOP proposals for a CR have included deep spending cuts for those 30 days. But there are still several conservatives who said they would not vote for a CR no matter what, arguing it would extend the previous Democratic Congress’s priorities.
Gaetz is one of them. He went to the House floor on Sept. 12 and threatened to bring up a motion to vacate the chair — which would remove McCarthy’s gavel — ‘every day’ so long last the GOP leader did not comply with his demands.
‘No continuing resolutions — individual spending bills or bust. Votes on balanced budgets and term limits. Subpoenas for Hunter Biden and the members of the Biden family who’ve been grifting off of this country. And the impeachment for Joe Biden that he so richly deserves,’ Gaetz listed. ‘Do these things or face a motion to vacate the chair.’
McCarthy accommodated hardliner demands to begin an impeachment inquiry against Biden but so far has not been able to come up with a deal on spending that Republicans can pass with their narrow majority. It only takes four dissenting GOP votes to block a bill from passing if Democrats unite in opposition.
However, Bacon says Gaetz’s threat is empty. ‘It only takes four Republicans to potentially put [McCarthy] at risk and lose the speakership, but the fact is they have no alternative,’ he said Friday in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press NOW.
‘They have nobody else that they can offer to put up there that the 200 of us would ever vote for,’ Bacon added.
He said McCarthy’s position is ‘secure’ and suggested that were the speaker to ignore the five to 10 hardliners making demands and make a bipartisan spending deal, ‘you’d have some Democrats vote ‘present’ and not vote to vacate.’
‘We have 5 people who want it their way or the highway,’ Bacon said. ‘The problem is the other 210 don’t.’
Reached for comment, Gaetz said his efforts have forced conservative concessions from McCarthy.
‘In the last two weeks, Kevin McCarthy has relented on a number of fronts, most notably moving single subject spending bills (finally!). He didn’t do this because I just asked nicely,’ he told Fox News Digital.
‘Moreover, the premise of Mr. Bacon’s argument is that Democrats would save McCarthy. That would mean he works for them. I doubt that would sit well with Republicans in Pensacola or Omaha,’ Gaetz added.
In response, Bacon said it was Gaetz and the other insurgents who were helping Democrats by voting against Republican appropriations bills and making demands that ‘keep growing.’
He said that a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Problem Solvers Caucus would soon roll out the ‘Keep America Open Act’ to fund the government with a continuing resolution, including money for disaster relief, border security, aid to Ukraine, and funds for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and community health centers.
‘The majority of Republicans have tried to push conservative bills, knowing it’s going to the Senate,’ where Democrats have the majority, Bacon said. ‘But since we can’t get five to 10 people on the team we need to get the best deal ew can get right now.’
‘The rest of the conference can’t put up with this crap, we’ve got to move forward.’
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Elizabeth Elkind and Houston Keene contributed to this report.