Vote to remove McCarthy over gov't funding would be 'destructive for the country,' moderate Republican says

Rep. Mike Lawler said the stopgap bill was "the only responsible thing."

October 1, 2023, 12:29 PM

New York Rep. Mike Lawler on Sunday warned that hard-line Republican colleague Matt Gaetz's plan to call a vote on removing Speaker Kevin McCarthy would be "destructive to the country" and further delay conservatives' work on long-term government funding bills.

"Nobody in our conference disagrees with the need to do single-subject spending bills. Nobody disagrees with the need to cut spending," Lawler told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl. "In fact, it's one of the biggest reasons why I ran."

Gaetz, in a separate interview on "This Week," denounced a temporary funding bill passed by Congress on Saturday to avert a partial government shutdown, arguing that it didn't do enough to change the culture of spending in Washington.

He said he would seek to remove McCarthy this week for backing the bill, which will fund the government through mid-November.

Lawler, a more moderate member of the GOP conference, defended the legislation as the "only responsible thing to do" to allow the party more time to finish individual spending proposals rather than the massive, all-in-one packages of past years.

"When you're trying to break the system, when you're trying to reform it, it takes time," he said. "We have been doing the work over the last few months, going line by line, budget bill by budget bill, finding ways to cut spending and reform the system. But we were not able to complete that work by Sept. 30, which was the end of the fiscal year. And so, to shut down the government would inflict pain on the American people."

Lawler also blasted Gaetz as "mealy mouthed" and "duplicitous" for pushing to remove McCarthy, via a so-called motion to vacate, despite not having a majority of House Republicans behind him.

Gaetz said on "This Week" that he would be "relentless" in seeking McCarthy's ouster, though he acknowledged he doesn't yet have the votes. He indicated that if he initially fails, he will simply try again, as allowed under House rules.

"You know what Matt Gaetz is going to do? He's going to delay the ability to complete that work [on spending bills] over the next 45 days," Lawler said.

He went on to blame Gaetz and other hard-liners for the current situation: "They delayed the process by voting down the rules, violating our conference rules. They delayed the process by refusing to come to an agreement within the conference."

"They are the reason that we had to work together yesterday with House Democrats to pass a CR [continuing resolution to fund the government]. That is not the fault of Kevin McCarthy, that's the fault of Matt Gaetz," Lawler said.

Karl pointed out that 90 Republicans voted against the McCarthy-backed bill and asked whether that showed a broader lack of confidence in the speaker -- as Gaetz is threatening his job.

"How many Republicans will join Gaetz in that motion to vacate?" Karl asked.

"I don't think that was a lack of confidence in the speaker's leadership," Lawler responded, further emphasizing the need for the party to work together to enact their priorities.

The stopgap bill they had to pass to stop a shutdown, by contrast, did not have Republicans' desired border security provisions or broader spending cuts.

"We have to work together as a team. We have 221 Republicans. We need 218 votes to pass legislation through the House floor," Lawler said.

"I think it is destructive to the country to put forth this motion to vacate. We have a lot of work to do. The American people elected a House Republican majority to serve as a check and balance on the Biden agenda," he said.

He stressed the need for immigration changes to address the "crisis at our southern border," claiming that congressional Democrats were not sufficiently addressing the problem.

Gaetz's attack on McCarthy would get in the way of that, Lawler said.

"This will all be torpedoed by one person who wants to put a motion to vacate for personal ... reasons and undermine the will of the conference and the American people who elected a Republican majority to govern it," he said.