Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida said Sunday that he would try to remove GOP Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy of California, from his leadership position this week after he told McCarthy to rely on Democrat support to pass legislation that avoided the government shutdown.
“Bring it on,” responded McCarthy.
Rep. Gaetz, a longtime nemesis of McCarthy, said in broadcast interviews that the speaker was in “brazen, material breach” of agreements he made with House Republicans in January when he ran for speaker. As a result, Gaetz said he would soon file a “motion to vacate the chair,” as rules of the House permit.
McCarthy responded to Gaetz’s statement, saying, “So be it. Bring it on. Let’s get over with it, and let’s start governing.”
No House speaker has ever been removed from office because of such a move. Procedural votes could be offered to stop the motion, or it could trigger a vote on the floor on whether McCarthy should remain speaker.
“I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid,” the Florida representative said. “I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy.”
The GOP just ended a tumultuous week in which Congress flirted with the government’s closure, and the House’s majority party couldn’t even pass its own bill to avoid a shutdown. Many Republican lawmakers complained the House waited too long to take up yearly spending bills and squandered an opportunity to force the Senate to negotiate on policy and spending priorities.
During the first nine months on the job, Speaker McCarthy has consistently worked to placate the conservative wing of his conference. Last month, he launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden without a vote in the House, although the speaker had said in the past that failure to have such a vote created a process that was void of legitimacy. McCarthy has also pushed spending levels for next year that are much below the caps he agreed to with President Biden on a deal to extend the nation’s debt ceiling so the government can pay its bills.
Speaker McCarthy brought a short-term plan on Friday to fund the government that would enact steep spending cuts of almost 30% for many agencies, along with strict provisions for border security. However, that was deemed insufficient by some in the GOP, and 21 joined with every Democrat in voting against the package.
McCarthy introduced a bipartisan bill Saturday that was passed, keeping the government open
On Saturday, the speaker pivoted to a bill that would draw Democratic support. It keeps agencies funded at the current levels into mid-November and provides $16 billion in relief for disasters and communities dealing with hurricanes and other natural disasters. Democrats jumped at the opportunity to keep the government open, and both chambers passed the legislation by overwhelming margins.
Representative Gaetz had threatened to file an ouster motion if Speaker McCarthy worked with Democrats, and he said the spending package blew past the spending guardrails that McCarthy had agreed to previously.
McCarthy has the support of a substantial majority of Republicans in the House, but because the GOP holds such a narrow 221-212 majority, he may need votes from some Democrats to hold onto his job. When asked how many Republicans he had on board, Rep. Gaetz said he had enough to ensure that if Speaker McCarthy retains his speakership, he would “be serving at the pleasure of the Democrats.”
“The only way Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House at the end of this coming week is if Democrats bail him out,” said Gaetz.
Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said she would vote to oust McCarthy as speaker if such a vote happens, calling him a “weak speaker” who had “lost control of his caucus.”
However, she also left open the opportunity for negotiations and said that if there were Democratic support for McCarthy, it would come at a price.
“You don’t just vote for a Republican speaker for nothing. That’s not what we were elected here to do,” said Ocasio-Cortez.
“I don’t have a vote on that matter,” said Biden at the White House Sunday. “I’ll leave that to the leadership in the House and Senate.”
Gaetz’s tactics have generated substantial scores from many Republicans in the House. GOP Representative Mike Lawler of New York spoke of Gaetz’s “diatribe of delusional thinking” and said that Gaetz acted for “personal, political reasons.” The speaker made a similar accusation and said Gaetz was “more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something.”
The rules of the House allow for any lawmaker — Republican or Democrat — to make a “motion to vacate the chair,” which is essentially an attempt to expel the speaker from that leadership post through a privileged resolution.
Proponents of allowing a single lawmaker to file the motion said it promotes accountability and noted its long history in the House. The motion was last used in 2015, when GOP then-Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who later became former President Donald Trump’s White House chief-of-staff, introduced a resolution to declare the speaker’s office vacant. Two months later, former Republican Speaker John Boehner said he would be stepping down.
Speaker McCarthy expressed optimism on Sunday that Gaetz would fail and said he has been after him since he ran for speaker.
“Yes, I’ll survive,” said McCarthy.