Gaetz to file motion this week, McCarthy says ‘bring it on’
Kevin McCarthy’s embrace of a bipartisan deal to avert a US government shutdown triggered a mutiny by far-right Republicans to depose him as House speaker.
Florida Republican Matt Gaetz said on Sunday he’ll file a motion to vacate the chair this week, seizing on a parliamentary process that has not resulted in a speaker removal vote since 1910. McCarthy responded defiantly, telling CBS News he’ll survive any attempt to remove him.
“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week,” Gaetz said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “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’s announcement came just hours after the House and Senate passed a temporary spending bill that attracted support from both sides.
Gaetz said his move stemmed from McCarthy’s embrace of a bipartisan deal that didn’t enact the steep spending cuts ultra-conservatives have demanded. That, he has said, is the latest in a string of promises McCarthy made to be elected speaker and has since broken.
“This isn’t personal. This is about spending,” Gaetz said. “This is about the deal Kevin McCarthy made.”
McCarthy, who portrayed himself as the “adult in the room” during the maneuvering that led to the deal, said he’s ready for the fight.
“Bring it on, let’s get over with it and let’s start governing,” McCarthy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If he’s upset because he tried to push us into a shutdown and I made sure the government didn’t shut down, let’s have that fight.”
McCarthy needs only a simple majority of House members voting to stop the effort to remove him. Republicans hold a slim majority and just five could join unified Democrats to bounce McCarthy from the speaker’s office.
Representative Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida, said he thinks McCarthy’s “in trouble.”
“I’m going to be totally blunt. There are a lot of trust issues in my chamber right now,” Donalds said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Previously, some House Democrats have said any effort to save McCarthy from a hardliner revolt would be contingent on bipartisan compromises.
Even if McCarthy survives the mutiny, Republican dissenters could call for a new vote at any time or impose procedural hurdles to block consideration of legislation. That essentially requires him to either maintain the alliance with Democrats — a de-facto coalition government in the House — or resolve differences with hardliners who now have one more reason to resent his leadership.
In 2015, then-Speaker John Boehner resigned when hardliners threatened such a rebellion rather than rely on Democratic votes to remain in power.
House Democrats led by Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York could decide to bail out McCarthy, even if they don’t actually cast votes to keep him in his post. Enough members could simply not show up, hold back their votes or merely vote “present,” lowering the threshold number of “nays” to removal that McCarthy needs to prevail.
Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota has said he and other Democrats would consider helping out McCarthy out. But he reeled back those comments after the speaker authorized formal impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden, which Phillips considered an act of “pandering” to the Republican hard right. Still, it’s not too late for McCarthy to win back that potential support, Phillips and others say.
Jeffries has said he hasn’t contemplated aiding McCarthy.
“We’ll just have to cross that bridge, if and when we get to it,” he said.
Gaetz, a lawyer and fourth-term member of Congress, is seizing on the ability of any House member to file the motion, which is considered “privileged,” giving it priority consideration. That power dates from a parliamentary rules manual written by Thomas Jefferson.
While 90 House Republicans opposed the stopgap funding bill on Saturday, 126 GOP members joined Democrats in supporting it.
Representative Mike Lawler, a moderate Republican from New York who backed the bill, called Gaetz’s efforts “a diatribe of delusional thinking.” He said the party’s ultraconservative flank was why moderates had to compromise with House Democrats to pass the measure.
“That is not the fault of Kevin McCarthy, that’s the fault of Matt Gaetz,” Lawler said on ABC’s “This Week.”
— With assistance by Alicia Diaz
(Updates with McCarthy comments starting in second paragraph.)