Mike Pence says House GOP can still govern, despite ‘chaos caucus’ ousting Kevin McCarthy

MOUNT AYR, Iowa — Former Vice President Mike Pence said House Republicans can still govern effectively in Congress despite what he called a “chaos caucus” of GOP members who ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy this month.

“I have great confidence in the men and women of the House Republican conference,” Pence told reporters Friday in Mount Ayr. “And the fact that there was a small chaos caucus that insisted on partnering with every Democrat in the congress to create the upheaval that we’ve seen in recent days I don’t think diminishes the capability of the overwhelming majority of Republicans to govern.”

McCarthy was ousted from the speakership Tuesday in a 216-210 vote, the first time in U.S. history that a speaker has been involuntarily removed from their post by the chamber. Eight Republicans and 208 Democrats voted against him.

Angered by a deal McCarthy put on the floor to fund the federal government for about 45 days and avert a shutdown, Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida put forward a “motion to vacate” which led to McCarthy being removed from his post.

Gaetz and other Republicans were upset with McCarthy for passing the bill with Democratic votes and for not including the deep spending cuts they had pushed for.

Pence said he was a thorn in GOP leaders’ side during his 12 years as a conservative member of Congress but couldn’t have imagined leading such a rebellion.

Republican presidential candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's fall banquet, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Bryon Houlgrave)

“I was a conservative leader in the Congress,” he said. “I led a lot of fights against Republican leaders and against a Republican president back in my day in the House of Representatives but I never could have imagined partnering with Democrats to run off a Republican speaker.”

Republicans, who hold a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, are now faced with the task of choosing a new speaker. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio have both announced they are running for the job.

Pence declined to weigh in on the race, saying “I think a great deal” of Scalise and Jordan and adding that there are a number of Republicans “that would do an outstanding job as speaker of the House.”

“I want to leave it for the conference,” he said.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Jordan on Friday. Earlier, he had expressed openness to serving as speaker himself after some House Republicans had floated drafting Trump for the job.

Pence dismissed that notion Friday.

“I’m very confident that there are enough men and women in the Republican conference to fit the bill as speaker of the House,” he said. “I don’t think we need to be looking to the former president or anyone else outside the conference.”

Pence declined to say whether the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy should face consequences, either by being removed from their House committees or facing primary challenges. But he indicated he believes it could be a factor for voters.

“I really do believe that you’re going to see voters in those districts remember the actions of these eight in the days ahead,” he said.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at sgrubermil@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Mike Pence targets ‘chaos caucus’ for ousting Kevin McCarthy as speaker

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