Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on Monday evening made good on a threat to file a motion to vacate House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from his leadership position.
Gaetz took to the House floor to declare, “Resolved, that the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is nearby declared to be vacant.”
The Florida Representative’s motion came just hours after he had accused McCarthy of having “struck a “secret side deal” with President Biden and House Democrats to continue to fund Ukraine in its war against Russia, and two days after McCarthy had introduced a a “clean” 45-day stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded and avoided a shutdown; it passed in the House after receiving more votes from Democrats that Republicans.
A motion to vacate is essentially calling for a “no confidence” vote against the House Speaker to have him or her ousted. There’s never been a successful vote to oust a House Speaker in the history of the U.S. Congress.
However, a concession McCarthy made to far-right House members like Gaetz in January to secure the Speakership allows just one Representative—in this case, Gaetz—to make a motion to vacate the chair. Before McCarthy, a motion to vacate required a majority vote from members of the Speaker’s party.
After making his motion on the floor, Gaetz spoke to reporters, saying that “one thing I’m at peace with is when we stand here a week from now, I won’t own Kevin McCarthy anymore. He won’t belong to me. So if the Democrats wanna adopt him, they can adopt him.”
Earlier in the day, McCarthy did not answer directly when reporters asked him about Gaetz’s accusation of cutting a secret deal on Ukraine.
According to House precedent, a resolution to remove the Speaker would be considered privileged, a designation that gives it priority over other issues, though it could potentially be preempted by a motion to “table,” or kill, the resolution that would be voted on first. Such a vote to table would only require a simple majority to proceed.
Further, while McCarthy still appears to maintain the support of most of the 221 House Republicans, the GOP only holds a four-seat majority in the House. A handful of Republicans could successfully vote to vacate the Speakership if all 212 Democrats vote to defeat any blocking motions, and then subsequently vote in favor of the resolution to vacate.