HomePoliticsMatt Gaetz Brings Up Motion to Oust House Speaker McCarthy

Matt Gaetz Brings Up Motion to Oust House Speaker McCarthy

Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida moved on Monday to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his post in an act of vengeance that posed the clearest threat yet to Mr. McCarthy’s tenure and could plunge the House into chaos.

After days of warnings, Mr. Gaetz rose Monday evening to bring up a resolution declaring the speakership vacant. That started a process that would force a vote within days on whether to keep Mr. McCarthy in his post. In doing so, Mr. Gaetz sought to subject Mr. McCarthy to a rare form of political punishment experienced by only two other speakers in the history of the House of Representatives.

The move came just days after Mr. McCarthy moved to avert a government shutdown the only way he could — by relying on Democratic votes to push through a stopgap spending bill over the objections of an unmovable bloc of hard-liners in his own party, including Mr. Gaetz.

Under House rules, Mr. McCarthy and his leadership team will need to address the motion within two legislative days — though they could do so sooner.

“It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for, and it’s not the Republican conference,” Mr. Gaetz said earlier Monday, making the case for Mr. McCarthy’s ouster. He added that the speaker had allowed President Biden to take his “lunch money in every negotiation.”

Mr. Gaetz cited Mr. McCarthy’s reliance on Democratic votes to push through the funding bill — a move that was necessary to avert a shutdown because Mr. Gaetz and 20 of his colleagues opposed a temporary funding bill. And he accused Mr. McCarthy of lying to his Republican members during spending negotiations and making a “secret deal” with Democrats concerning funding for Ukraine, which he and dozens of other conservatives have opposed.

The move is a significant escalation of the long-simmering power struggle between Mr. McCarthy and a clutch of conservative hard-liners in his party who have dangled the threat of dethroning the speaker since he was elected, after they subjected him to a painful round of 15 votes.

Mr. McCarthy, a chronic optimist who has shown a remarkable willingness to weather political pain to maintain his grip on the speaker’s gavel, appeared undaunted.

“I think it’s disruptive to the country, and my focus is only on getting our work done,” Mr. McCarthy said earlier Monday. “I want to win the vote so I can finish the job for the American people. There are certain people who have done this since the day we came in.”

Mr. Gaetz’s animus toward Mr. McCarthy extends far beyond the most recent funding skirmish. He emerged as Mr. McCarthy’s chief tormentor during the speaker’s fight in January, when he suggested on the House floor that the California Republican had “sold shares of himself for more than a decade,” and never quite stopped.


It was to appease Mr. Gaetz and the 19 other Republicans who opposed his speakership that Mr. McCarthy agreed to change the rules of the House to allow any one lawmaker to call a snap vote for his ouster.

After Mr. McCarthy struck a bipartisan deal with Mr. Biden in the spring to suspend the debt ceiling, there were rumblings among the far right about moving forward on a motion to vacate. They settled for shutting down the House floor instead.

It was unclear how many Republicans planned to join Mr. Gaetz in his attempt to dethrone Mr. McCarthy. Some arch conservatives who have been critical of the speaker have said in recent days that they would not support removing him now.

But Mr. Gaetz told reporters at the Capitol that he intended to continue forcing votes to oust Mr. McCarthy if his first attempt was unsuccessful.

“It took Speaker McCarthy 15 votes to become the speaker,” he said. “Until I get to 14 or 15, I don’t think I’m being any more dilatory.”

It also remained to be seen whether Democrats would help Mr. McCarthy maintain his post. If Democrats were to vote against Mr. McCarthy — as is almost always the case when a speaker of the opposing party is being elected — Mr. Gaetz would need only a handful of Republicans to join the opposition to remove him, which requires a simple majority vote.

But Mr. McCarthy could hang onto his gavel if Democrats vote to support him, simply skip the vote altogether or vote “present.” In that situation, Democrats who did not register a vote would lower the threshold for a majority and make it easier to defeat Mr. Gaetz’s motion.

Some Democrats representing moderate and conservative-leaning districts have indicated that they would be hard-pressed to punish Mr. McCarthy for working across the aisle to prevent a shutdown.

But others pointed to the string of concessions Mr. McCarthy made to appease his right flank — including opening an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Biden and reneging on spending levels negotiated with the president during the debt limit crisis — and said they saw no reason to bail him out.

“I don’t think we give up votes for free,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said on “State of the Union” on Sunday. She added that she would “absolutely” vote to remove Mr. McCarthy.

There are a number of procedural sleights of hand that Mr. McCarthy and his leadership team could use to to try to avoid an up-or-down vote on whether to keep him as speaker. Mr. McCarthy could hold a vote to table the resolution, which would effectively kill it or to refer it to a committee made up of his allies.

Still, Mr. Gaetz’s decision pushes the House into rarely tested waters.

Only two other speakers have faced motions to vacate: once in 1910, and more recently, in 2015, when Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina, sought to oust Speaker John A. Boehner. The House never voted on the motion, but it contributed to Mr. Boehner’s decision to relinquish his gavel and resign from Congress.

Karoun Demirjian contributed reporting.