5 pressing questions McCarthy faces as the House reconvenes

House GOP clashes over government shutdown threats and whether to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden are set to come to a head when the House returns to Washington on Tuesday.

As Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tries to navigate the thorny matters without alienating his right flank or pushing his moderate members into tough votes, some conservatives are floating a potential vote on ousting him as Speaker if they are not satisfied with how he handles the issues.

Here are five pressing questions McCarthy will face this month.

Will McCarthy open an impeachment inquiry?

McCarthy has said the House could launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden when lawmakers return, calling it a “natural step forward” in the party’s probes into the Biden family’s foreign business dealings and the prosecution of his son Hunter Biden.

Many Republicans are pushing McCarthy to take that step, but it is far from clear that he has the votes in the slim House GOP majority.

A handful of Republican lawmakers of all political stripes have voiced hesitation about moving forward with an impeachment inquiry.

Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), who represent districts Biden won in 2020, have both said they are not ready to move to an impeachment inquiry. And Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said “there is not a strong connection” between evidence on Hunter Biden and the president.

But those pushing for impeachment are also amping up the pressure. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has said she will not vote to fund the government unless a Biden impeachment inquiry is opened. And Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) floated the possibility of “forcing votes on impeachment,” putting McCarthy’s job on the line if he impedes his efforts.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), for his part, says the votes are there, telling Newsmax in an interview last week “I do believe that we have the votes for impeachment inquiry.”

Across the Capitol, the idea is getting a cool reception. Some Senate Republicans say there doesn’t appear to be enough evidence to launch an inquiry, and cast it as a distraction from more pressing issues.

“It really comes to how do you prioritize your time? I don’t know of anybody who believes [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer [D-N.Y.] will take it up and actually have a trial and convict a sitting president,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate GOP leadership team.  

Can McCarthy avert a shutdown?

McCarthy is pushing the House to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open past Sept. 30, but the details of such a measure remain up in the air.

First is the question of length. McCarthy has said he does not want a continuing resolution that pushes up against the holidays, but he has not been more specific on his preferred timing. 

Beyond that, there are competing pressures on what could be attached to the stopgap measure.

The White House has called to attach supplemental funding for Ukraine, disaster relief, and border security to a continuing resolution.

Hard-line conservatives are also laying down demands. The House Freedom Caucus last month said it will not support a continuing resolution unless it includes changes to address policies at the border, “weaponization” at the Department of Justice and “woke policies” at the Pentagon.

Those requests, however, will not fly with the Democratic-controlled Senate or liberals in the lower chamber, increasing the odds of a shutdown at the end of the month.

Will the House consider Ukraine funding?

The White House has asked Congress for $24 billion in additional assistance for Ukraine’s efforts to fight off the Russian invasion. The ask was included in a supplemental funding request along with more money for disaster relief and border security. 

Senate leaders in both parties have expressed support for the Ukraine funding. But McCarthy has previously pledged there will be no “blank check” to Ukraine, and the GOP conference has numerous members hostile to the thought of approving any more funding for Ukraine.

“Why are we talking about the Ukraine supplemental when we can’t even figure out how to fund our own operation of government to do what it’s supposed to do?” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said.

One possibility is that McCarthy ties Ukraine funding to policy changes that Republicans want on the U.S.-Mexico border — an option that Bloomberg and Punchbowl News reported GOP leaders are considering.

Will appropriations bills move forward?

House GOP leaders hope to make progress on the remaining 11 of 12 regular appropriations bills this month, but pushback from hard-line conservatives demanding even more cuts makes the path forward uncertain.

Several members of the House Freedom Caucus have said they are not in favor of moving more appropriations bills unless they know what the overall topline figures for all appropriations bills will be. Disputes over funding figures forced GOP leaders to punt plans to bring up an agriculture appropriations bill before the August recess.

This week, the House is set to move forward on a bill to fund the Department of Defense — a bill that is renewing pushes from hard-liners to eliminate funding for “woke” programs like funding for gender-affirming health procedures and for diversity, equity, and inclusion training.

Roy said that he is open to passing the bill this week “only if we get the policy changes that need to occur.”

“Why would I fund transgender surgeries? Why would I fund the continued diversity, equity, and inclusion offices that are dividing the Pentagon?” Roy said. “So, [if] you want to get policy changes done this week, you know, there might be some flexibility on the dollar levels and maybe we can get a bill across the finish line.”

McCarthy told reporters on Monday that he was not concerned about moving the appropriations bills forward.

“We’re gonna get our work done,” McCarthy said.

Does McCarthy face a real threat to his gavel?

McCarthy has so far avoided direct challenges to his gavel despite his concession during the Speaker’s election to lower the threshold to bring a “motion to vacate the chair” and force a vote on ousting the Speaker down to just one member. But threats are ticking up.

Gaetz — one of the six conservatives who withheld support from McCarthy in January — put the Speaker on notice last week, warning that if he impedes on his efforts to force a vote on impeachment, he could lose his gavel.

“[I]f Speaker McCarthy stands in our way, he may not have the job long,” Gaetz told conservative radio host Todd Starnes.

McCarthy told reporters on Monday that he was “not at all” worried about the threat from Gaetz.

“Matt’s Matt,” McCarthy said.

Gaetz upped that rhetoric on social media over the weekend, asking Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), whom he frequently spars with, if Democrats would assist with ousting McCarthy.

“Hi, Eric. If I make a motion to remove Kevin, how may democrat votes can I count on? Asking for a friend….” Gaetz wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“If I’ll work with @aoc to ban congressional stock trading I’ll absolutely work with @ericswalwell  to rid the House of ineffective leadership. How many votes can you deliver against a Motion to Table a Motion to Vacate, eric? Asking for (many) friends!” Gaetz wrote in a subsequent tweet.

Tags Don Bacon Dusty Johnson Hunter Biden Joe Biden John Cornyn Ken Buck Kevin McCarthy