Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Monday moved to force a vote on ousting Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), following through with his pledge to do so after the Speaker put a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government on the House floor.
Gaetz — a top McCarthy antagonist — unveiled a resolution on the floor to declare the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be vacant following votes on Monday, capping off a day’s worth of anticipation.
Standing up to make a question of privilege Monday evening, Gaetz kicked off a process to force a vote on the measure — moves that together are widely known as the “motion to vacate the chair.”
“He doesn’t have my support anymore and he doesn’t have the support of a requisite number of Republicans to continue as the Republican Speaker,” Gaetz told reporters following his announcement on the House floor.
It marks just the third attempt in House history to remove a sitting Speaker — following an unsuccessful move against Speaker Joe Cannon (R-Ill.) in 1910 and one against Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2015 that was also unsuccessful, but contributed to his later resignation.
A vote on the motion to vacate the chair will have to be brought up within two legislative days. But it is likely that the House, rather than voting on the resolution itself, would first vote on some mechanism to kill or delay it, such as voting to table the resolution.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) said on Monday that they would support Gaetz’s move. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said that while he is still “praying about it,” he said that “my conscience is telling me to – to vote him out.”
That number could tick up. Many of the 20 lawmakers who withheld support from McCarthy during the marathon, 15-ballot Speakership election in January haven’t made their positions public.
McCarthy’s fate will largely hinge on how Democrats respond to the motion to vacate. If enough Republicans support the effort, Democrats could either oust him by voting with them, or save him by voting opposing the effort or voting “present.”
Democrats have kept their cards close to their chests, telling reporters that they will defer to signals from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
McCarthy, for his part, is exuding confidence amid the effort to oust him.
“Bring it on,” he wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, after Gaetz made the motion.
The Speaker told reporters Monday morning that his support within the House GOP conference is “very strong,” and he said Sunday “I’ll survive” if a vote is brought against him.
“Let’s get over with it and let’s start governing. If he’s upset because he tried to push us in a shutdown and I made sure government didn’t shut down, then let’s have that fight,” McCarthy told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Gaetz earlier Monday warned that he would continue to force votes on McCarthy’s ouster if the first one fails.
“It took Speaker McCarthy 15 votes to become the Speaker. So until I get to 14 or 15, I don’t think I’m being any more dilatory than he was,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz introduced the privileged resolution to boot McCarthy two days after the Speaker worked with Democrats to pass a “clean” continuing resolution hours before a government funding deadline. The short-term stopgap bill — which overwhelmingly passed with bipartisan support in both chambers — helped avert a shutdown that was set to begin at midnight Saturday.
On Monday, hours before he unveiled his motion to vacate resolution, Gaetz went after McCarthy in a floor speech that largely focused on a supposed “secret side deal” that the Speaker cut with President Biden about approving Ukraine aid in the future. The “clean” stopgap bill that lawmakers approved over the weekend notably excluded any funding for Kyiv.
In those remarks, Gaetz teased his motion to vacate.
“For all the crocodile tears about what may happen later this week about a motion to vacate, working with the Democrats is a yellow brick road that has been paved by Speaker McCarthy, whether it was the debt limit deal, the CR or now the secret deal on Ukraine,” Gaetz said. “This is swampy log-rolling.”
McCarthy denied that a side deal exists, telling reporters that the “agreement” was to fix a possible technical issue connected to transferring funds under the continuing resolution.
Gaetz, who has a history of sparring with McCarthy, had been heightening his threats to force a vote on ousting the Speaker for weeks, warning him against putting a clean CR on the floor.
He announced his plan to try and boot the California Republican from his post Sunday.
“I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy,” Gaetz told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Updated at 9:03 p.m.