Updated Oct 2, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Gaetz taunts McCarthy over motion to vacate

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks to members of the media outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Monday, Oct. 2. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Conservative firebrand Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) fanned the flames on Monday of his feud with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) amid speculation over when Gaetz will pull the trigger on the motion to vacate.

Why it matters: After alerting the media that he would be delivering a floor speech, Gaetz indicated that the motion would be filed later this week while accusing McCarthy of striking a "secret side deal on Ukraine" with Democrats in exchange for their votes to pass a stopgap spending bill.

  • "Members of the Republican Party might vote differently on a motion to vacate if they heard what the speaker had to share with us about his secret side deal with Joe Biden on Ukraine," he said on the floor. "I'll be listening —stay tuned."
  • Gaetz has also hit the cable news circuit to make his case against McCarthy and repeatedly trolled him on social media.
  • One member likened the lead up to the expected motion to vacate to "a cat playing with its mouse."

A single member can trigger a motion to vacate vote, which requires a majority of the House to remove a speaker.

  • No speaker in history has been removed by such a motion.
  • The House last voted on a motion to vacate in 1910.

What they're saying: Conservative hardliners are fuming about McCarthy's decision to bring a clean continuing resolution to the floor, arguing that he broke the terms of their January agreement. McCarthy allies have argued that a small faction of the conference are sparking unnecessary chaos.

  • "Let's roll!" Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) said of a motion to vacate.
  • "Gaetz is like an arsonist calling the fire department," one lawmaker told Axios, making the case that a motion to vacate makes accomplishing passing conservative bills more difficult.

The intrigue: McCarthy is expected to need Democrats to remain in his leadership position if Gaetz ultimately files the motion, and it remains unclear whether they will back him to make up the California Republicans' deficit within his own conference.

  • Talk among moderates to change the rules package to prevent constant efforts to oust McCarthy have been floated.
  • Conservatives have also voiced concerns over what concessions McCarthy would need to give Democrats for them to agree to take action to keep him in his leadership position.

The big picture: McCarthy's ability to retain his gavel is in its most perilous position since January, with lawmakers beginning to float potential alternatives.

  • Despite chatter of a replacement, McCarthy voiced confidence that he will prevail in the vote.
  • He told reporters "I'm not worried" on Monday morning.
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