Staunch Conservative Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) has formally declared his intention to file a motion to vacate against Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House.
Gaetz’s announcement comes after weeks of threats and promises to force a vote to remove McCarthy from leadership, should he collaborate with Democrats to prevent a government shutdown.
“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week,” Gaetz affirmed during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He went on to emphasize the need for new leadership that can be trusted. Gaetz’s decision to pursue McCarthy’s removal was prompted by McCarthy’s willingness to work with Democrats to avert a government shutdown. A faction of hard-right Republicans, led by Gaetz, had disrupted McCarthy’s efforts to pass legislation aimed at preventing the shutdown.
McCarthy, seemingly undaunted by Gaetz’s move, responded during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” stating, “I’ll survive. So be it, bring it on, let’s get over with it and let’s start governing.” McCarthy also expressed his belief that Gaetz’s focus on media appearances took precedence over effective governance.
The rift between Gaetz and McCarthy has roots dating back to before McCarthy’s ascent to the speakership in January. Gaetz and other Republicans had previously resisted supporting McCarthy during the speaker’s race, leading to a prolonged standoff on the House floor. Ultimately, they withdrew their opposition but not before extracting concessions from McCarthy.
One of the key concessions granted was the lowering of the threshold for filing a motion to vacate, allowing a single House member to initiate the process. Gaetz, after months of wielding this threat over McCarthy, appears poised to take action.
Gaetz’s criticism of McCarthy centers on what he perceives as McCarthy’s failure to adhere to conservative principles, particularly in matters related to government spending and border policies. McCarthy’s recent decision to pivot and pass a clean funding bill, one that garnered more support from Democrats than Republicans, took some by surprise, as he had previously likened such a vote to surrender.
The outcome of Gaetz’s bid to remove McCarthy remains uncertain, hinging on the level of support he can muster among his fellow Republicans. Some members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have distanced themselves from Gaetz’s efforts.
Should more than a handful of Republicans cast votes against McCarthy, he would need Democratic support to retain his speakership. However, Democratic leaders have not yet disclosed how they will advise their caucus to vote in such a scenario.
Sen. Lindsey Graham offered his defense of McCarthy on Sunday, asserting that McCarthy is the right leader for the Republican Party at this juncture. Graham also expressed doubt that McCarthy would be unseated from his position, suggesting it would be a disaster for the party.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent Democrat, made it clear that she would not vote for a Republican speaker of the House. However, she indicated that it would be up to the Republican Conference to determine its leadership, emphasizing that Democrats would not provide their votes without meaningful discussions and concessions between the two parties
“I do not intend on voting for a Republican speaker of the House, but I believe that it’s up to the Republican Conference to determine their own leadership and deal with their own problems,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on CNN Sunday. “[I]t’s not up to Democrats to save Republicans. From themselves, especially.”
Ocasio-Cortez “absolutely” would vote to remove McCarthy, she added, and other Democrats likely will as well “unless there’s a real conversation between the Republican and Democratic caucuses and Republican and Democratic leadership” about what it would mean to back a Republican speaker.
“But I don’t think we give up votes for free,” Ocasio-Cortez said.