House Democratic Centrists Unwilling to Salvage McCarthy’s Speakership

US Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) speaks to members of the media outside the office of US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2023. McCarthy was fighting for his political life ahead of a vote expected Tuesday on whether to remove him as House speaker, forced by far-right critics angered by his work with Democrats. McCarthy sparked fury among the ultra-conservative wing of the party when he passed a bipartisan stopgap funding measure backed by the White House to avert a government shutdown on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy faces the threat of an ouster vote from the GOP’s hard-right faction, House Democratic centrists, who could potentially hold the key to his survival, appear reluctant to rescue his besieged speakership. Despite some centrists maintaining open channels of communication with Republicans and discussing the possibility of supporting McCarthy, the overall skepticism within the Democratic caucus toward McCarthy’s leadership remains deep-rooted.

Deep-Rooted Distrust

House Democrats harbor mistrust for McCarthy, stemming from his advocacy for the impeachment of President Joe Biden and his alignment with Donald Trump following the violent Capitol riot. This distrust has made many Democrats wary of any move that might save McCarthy from his own party’s rebellion.

Centrist Conversations

While most Democrats remain skeptical, a small group of traditional Democratic moderates has continued dialogue with Republicans during McCarthy’s tenure. They have explored the idea of supporting the speaker through informal discussions, including dinners, gym workouts, and floor conversations. Their motivations include a desire to prevent further chaos, existing relationships with McCarthy, and hopes of a bipartisan deal.

Challenges in Extracting Concessions

However, attempts by Democratic moderates to secure concessions from McCarthy face significant hurdles. McCarthy’s camp has signaled an unwillingness to concede much to Democrats. While centrists speculated about potential gains, McCarthy’s position has remained steadfast: there is little room for compromise.

Democrats Unmoved

The Democratic centrists’ willingness to engage with McCarthy has not translated into compelling reasons to assist him. McCarthy’s reliance on Democrats to avoid a government shutdown has, ironically, diminished their motivation to save him from an internal challenge.

Political Foe as Biggest Fundraiser

Additionally, McCarthy, the Republican Party’s most significant fundraiser, paradoxically serves as a formidable political adversary for the Democrats. This factor further diminishes the incentive for vulnerable Democrats to assist him.

Loyalty to Hakeem Jeffries

Many centrist Democrats maintain loyalty to Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has encouraged his caucus to remain discreet about their McCarthy plans. Jeffries, along with the Democratic leadership, has reached out to some centrists, emphasizing the need for unity.

Vote Uncertainty

The upcoming vote on McCarthy’s future is clouded with uncertainty. While some centrists had initially considered supporting McCarthy, they now express reservations, leaving the outcome uncertain. Democrats are not expected to formally whip the vote as they wait to see how the ouster vote unfolds.


As Kevin McCarthy faces an uncertain future within his party, House Democratic centrists appear hesitant to intervene, given their mistrust of his leadership, his role as a significant fundraiser for the opposition, and the prevailing sense that McCarthy must navigate his own political challenges.

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