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Gaetz plans move to oust McCarthy, says GOP needs new leader

House rules passed in January allow a single member to try to vacate speaker's seat

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said he would seek to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his position this week after McCarthy posted a short-term spending bill that passed with bipartisan support Saturday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said he would seek to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his position this week after McCarthy posted a short-term spending bill that passed with bipartisan support Saturday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Matt Gaetz said Sunday he intends to push a motion this week to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the speakership amid a feud over government spending after the California Republican passed a stopgap spending measure with mostly Democratic votes.

“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week. I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy,” the Florida Republican told CNN. “By week’s end he will either not be speaker or will he will be Speaker serving at the pleasure of House Democrats.”

Gaetz repeated his call for the House to pass individual fiscal 2024 appropriations bills and lamented the continuing resolution McCarthy surprisingly put on the floor Saturday as a government shutdown deadline fast approached. The measure sailed through the House with 335 votes in support, including 209 Democrats and 126 GOP members; 90 Republicans and one Democrat voted against the stopgap. The CR received 88 votes in the Senate, with nine Republicans voting no and two Democrats not casting votes before President Joe Biden signed it into law around 11 p.m. EDT.

“Look, the one thing everybody has in common is that nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy. He lied to Biden, he lied to House conservatives. He had appropriators marking to a different number altogether,” Gaetz said, referring to a June debt ceiling deal McCarthy struck with the president. “And the reason we were backed up against the shutdown politics is not a bug of the system. It’s a feature.”

Gaetz would be able to introduce the motion and force a vote on trying to boot McCarthy under a rules package the speaker agreed to in January as he sought enough GOP votes to secure the gavel. On Saturday, McCarthy all but dared Gaetz to try ousting him after the chamber passed the 45-day spending bill that averted a government shutdown.

McCarthy, as sitting speaker, would be able to set a date for the motion to vacate vote on the floor within two days after Gaetz or any other member informed the chamber of an intention to offer such a motion, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Both chambers have been slow to move fiscal 2024 spending measures that must be adopted annually by Sept. 30 to keep most parts of the government functioning. While the House has passed several of its own spending bills, the Senate has yet to pass a single one. Gaetz contended his frustration with the speaker is over government funding and not an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of sex trafficking, which the Justice Department looked into and opted against charging Gaetz.

“This isn’t personal, Jake, this is about spending,” Gaetz told Jake Tapper, anchor of CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“This is about the deal Kevin McCarthy made,” he said, referring to a separate agreement conservatives say the speaker made with them in January to move spending bills with lower funding levels than called for in the later pact with Biden.

“If Kevin McCarthy didn’t want to keep the deal to return to pre-COVID spending, if he didn’t want to keep the deal to have single-subject spending bills … then he shouldn’t have made that deal,” Gaetz said. “So this is about keeping Kevin McCarthy to his word. It’s not about the personal animus.”

In a separate interview Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week” program, Gaetz called his coming motion to vacate the speakership an “exercise to show the American people who really governs you.”

In what would be an unexpected Washington twist, the Florida congressman predicted House Democrats would be the ones who keep McCarthy in the speaker’s office.

“I actually think Democrats are going to bail out Kevin McCarthy,” Gaetz told ABC. He did not spell out a specific day on which he intends to try stripping McCarthy of the gavel he has long coveted.

Simple majority to vacate

To vacate the speakership, a simple majority of the House would have to vote in support of Gaetz’s motion. He contended on CNN he has “a sufficient number” of votes to push McCarthy out.

“I’m not alone. People can say this is a party of one,” he said. “I have tens of millions of Americans … and I have a requisite number of House Republicans.”

California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, deemed speaker emerita by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., urged her fellow Democrats to “follow the leader” when the motion to vacate hits the chamber floor.

Pelosi did not say how she intends to vote, if Gaetz follows through this week. But she did take a shot at the Florida conservative.

“You’re wasting your time on that guy because he has no sway … in the House of Representatives,” she said of Gaetz, “except to get on TV and to to raise money on the internet.”

If McCarthy is ousted, the chamber would then have to vote someone else into the position.

McCarthy fired back at Gaetz, calling his coming motion “personal” and predicting he would keep his gavel.

“That’s nothing new. He’s tried to do that from the moment I ran for the office,” the speaker said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

McCarthy chuckled when asked if he thought he could survive a floor vote and said: “Yes, I’ll survive,” adding: “You know, this is personal with Matt.” He criticized Gaetz for voting against a conservative stopgap spending measure last week that included border security funding.

“He’s more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something,” McCarthy said. “He wanted to push us into a shutdown, even threatening his own district with all the military people there who would not be paid only because he wants to take this motion.”

A defiant speaker seemed to welcome the possible coming floor drama, saying: “So bring it on. Let’s get over with it.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Sunday that she would vote to oust McCarthy because he is a “weak speaker.”

“I do not intend to vote for a Republican speaker the House, but I believe that it’s up to the Republican conference to determine their own leadership and deal with their own problems,” she told CNN.

But she also suggested she and other Democrats might provide the votes to keep McCarthy in the speaker’s suite — if he makes them unspecified promises.

“I certainly don’t think that we would expect to see that unless there’s a real conversation between the Republican and Democratic caucuses, and Republican and Democratic leadership about what that would mean,” she said of a scenario in which her party provides the votes for McCarthy.

“I don’t think we give up votes for free,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

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