Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced a resolution Monday evening to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from his seat, triggering an expected intraparty clash and setting up a showdown for the House to decide whether to depose McCarthy likely within 48 hours.
Gaetz and a handful of hard-right Republicans have repeatedly threatened to go after McCarthy’s speakership if he relied on Democratic votes to pass any spending legislation, which happened Saturday after McCarthy could not get a majority of Republicans to support various proposals to fund the government with only GOP votes. Using a motion to vacate, a single person can force the House to consider removing the speaker. McCarthy agreed to lowering the threshold for bringing the motion to win over enough support to become speaker in January.
“It is going to be difficult for my Republican friends to keep calling President Biden feeble while he continues to take Speaker McCarthy’s lunch money,” Gaetz said. ‘Members of the Republican Party might vote differently on a motion to vacate if they heard what the speaker had to share with us about his secret side deal with Joe Biden on Ukraine. I’ll be listening. Stay tuned.”
But it’s not clear Gaetz has 218 votes needed to remove McCarthy without himself relying on Democratic votes. If successful, the motion would not remove McCarthy from the House, but from his leadership position alone. If McCarthy is successfully removed, both Democrats and Republicans worry they will be in a speakership election fight that could drag on for days, blunting progress on passing full year appropriation bills before government funding runs out in mid-November.
The pursuit to depose McCarthy as speaker has alarmed many House Republicans, possibly setting up an internal civil war between staunch allies of McCarthy and those who have pressured him repeatedly with a variety of, at times unrealistic, demands. The effort also likely would force McCarthy and his allies to strategize with Democrats, further irritating the hard-right, because the minority party will play a determinative role in whether McCarthy can hold onto his leadership seat.
House Democrats have begun to discuss how they would handle a potential challenge to McCarthy’s speakership. House Minority Whip Rep. Katherine M. Clark (Mass.), in a note to Democrats Sunday told them to be ready for a motion to oust McCarthy as speaker “at any time, including Monday.” She did not indicate any preference in how to vote, adding that “we will have a Caucus wide discussion on how to address the motion to best meet the needs of the American people.”