House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said Tuesday morning that it “remains to be seen” whether House Democrats will help Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) keep his leadership position amid a motion to oust him.
Far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on Monday evening made good on a threat to file a motion to vacate McCarthy from the Speakership, 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.
Gaetz’s motion also came two days after McCarthy had introduced a “clean” 45-day stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded and avoided a shutdown; it passed in the GOP-led 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.
In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday morning, Jeffries said House Democrats had a caucus meeting scheduled shortly, during which they’d “have a family conversation about this issue…and then figure out where to go from there.”
Jeffries was then asked about reports of House Democrats saying they have no intention of helping McCarthy—who’s brought an impeachment inquiry against President Biden and broke a budget deal he’d made with Biden to prevent debt default back in May.
To a question of whether there were enough Democrats to save McCarthy, the Minority Leader replied, “Well, that remains to be seen. We do know that the House of Representatives has largely been turned over to the most extreme elements of the House Republican Conference, and that’s not good for the American people. We’ll have to see how that plays out in the context of this possible motion to vacate that may be before us, either later on today or tomorrow.”
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.
“We are in the midst of a Republican civil war,” Jeffries said on Tuesday morning, “and it is undermining the ability of the Congress to solve problems on behalf of hard-working taxpayers. And one way or the other that’s going to have to end—not necessarily in the context of what may be before us this week, but it just has to end.”