Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) told TPM Thursday that a sizable chunk of the House Democratic caucus plans to demand power-sharing concessions from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) if he ultimately needs their votes to save his speakership or keep the government open.
“If there was any kind of a deal to be made, it would need to be written into the rules of the House,” she said Thursday afternoon. “We would need to codify power-sharing because that’s the only way we can trust him.”
“There are things we can do in codifying the rules of the House that would give Hakeem Jeffries, our leadership, real power over the floor, over committees, etc,” she added of the House minority leader.
She said that she and other progressives had “identified a whole menu of options” as they mull how to craft such an arrangement.
It’s a rare look into Democrats’ planning ahead, as most members are remaining tight-lipped about the possibility that McCarthy may ultimately be forced to ask for their votes to offset defections from his own hardliners.
“We had this conversation today in CPC, and we had it a week ago with our CPC executive board,” Jayapal said, referring to the 102-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, which she chairs. “Nobody should rely on us to save McCarthy.”
Jayapal added that they’d homed in on power-sharing because it’s ironclad, particularly after McCarthy betrayed Democrats’ trust when he reneged on the debt ceiling deal he reached with President Joe Biden in May.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told TPM earlier Thursday that there’s been no such contingency planning in the broader Democratic caucus.
“There’s been no caucus discussions on the motion to vacate issue because that’s political gamesmanship,” he said. “That is part of the Republican civil war. Not our business.”
As Congress barrels towards a shutdown due to the recalcitrance of the right flank of the House Republicans, it’s becoming increasingly clear that McCarthy would need House Democratic help to pass a continuing resolution and keep the government open. He told reporters Thursday that he plans to bring a stopgap measure to the House floor Friday, even though it appears he still does not have the votes to pass it. If he passes another deal on the backs of House Democrats, his gavel would likely be in danger — another vote he’d likely need House Democrats’ support to survive.
Democratic leadership has largely refused to detail what it would demand from McCarthy if he comes knocking. Members of leadership have stuck to the party line that they want a chance to vote on the clean resolution the Senate is in the process of passing — legislation McCarthy previously said he wouldn’t bring to the floor.
If there was a motion to vacate, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), a member of leadership, told TPM, they’d get 48 hours to figure out next steps.
“And so I’m certain that we’d have a Democratic caucus,” he said.
As Jayapal pointed out, power-sharing agreements on the Hill are not unheard of in recent years. Senate Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had a prolonged battle as they crafted one at the beginning of the 117th Congress in 2021, when the Senate was technically split 50-50.
“It’s because of what happened with the debt ceiling,” Jayapal said of why they’d demand a power-sharing agreement. “It’s because of what happened with the Biden impeachment. It’s because of the fact that he’s, depending on the day, either turned the gavel over to Marjorie Taylor Greene or to Matt Gaetz.”