WASHINGTON — Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Grand Rapids, said Sunday that she would be open to helping save Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy's position in leadership if Republicans put "some concessions in place."
Congress passed a short-term budget bill Saturday night that will extend existing funding levels through Nov. 17, avoiding a government shut down shortly before the deadline. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of several hardline Republicans who had been pushing McCarthy not to support a short-term bill, said Sunday he plans to try to remove McCarthy from leadership this week over the move.
McCarthy would have to get support from a majority of the U.S. House in order to retain his position. With a narrow four-seat majority, he may need support from Democrats if even a handful of Republican members side with Gaetz.
"I'll take it all under consideration," Scholten told CNN's "State of the Union."
"There are some serious trust issues here with McCarthy — he made a promise back in May about how we were going to fund this government and he took us to the 11th hour ... we're going to need some concrete guidelines in place if he's going to want Democrats to come to the table and help save his speakership," she said.
Scholten is the first Democrat to represent the Grand Rapids area since the 1970s. Her district is among the most competitive in the country, and she has billed herself as a centrist who defies typical party allegiances.
She said that would likely require making changes to the House rules, though she did not specify what would be adequate. The first-term congresswoman said there are "plenty of moderate Democrats" who witnessed McCarthy "do the right thing" in passing the short-term funding bill.
"If we can have some kind of guarantees in place that that's the type of leadership that we'll be seeing going forward, I think there are some of us who are open to considering that," she said. "There are some negotiations to be had, but we're not just going to take his word for it again."
Asked whether she would support a new Republican speaker, such as Louisiana Rep. Tom Cole or Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, Scholten said she's open to it.
"The chaos that I have seen over the last month has left a moderate Democrat like me saying, let's consider all options," she said.
In order to secure the speakership, McCarthy agreed to demands from the far-right members of his caucus that would make it possible for any one member to demand a vote on his leadership position. No speaker has been removed from leadership through the procedure.
McCarthy and President Joe Biden agreed in May to keep government spending mostly flat for the next two years as part of a deal to avoid a default on the national debt, but as the deadline to pass a budget neared, McCarthy pushed spending bills lower than those agreed to. Pressured by a small group of GOP holdouts to demand deeper spending cuts, McCarthy resisted passing legislation to avoid a shutdown until Saturday.
If McCarthy is removed from leadership, the House cannot tackle any other legislation until it elects a new speaker. It took four days and 15 votes to get enough support for McCarthy to become speaker at the beginning of the year due to fissures within his party.
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