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Rep. Matt Gaetz triggers vote to oust Kevin McCarthy from speaker’s office

U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) attends a House Committee on Rules meeting regarding government spending legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 22, 2023.

Elizabeth Frantz | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the Donald Trump ally and conservative bomb-thrower who has been a nagging thorn in leadership’s side, filed a resolution on Monday to force a vote to overthrow his political nemesis, Kevin McCarthy, as speaker of the House.

During the past two weeks, Gaetz had issued a specific warning to McCarthy, saying that he would try to oust the speaker if he brought a short-term government funding bill to the floor that passed with help from Democrats.

True to his word, Gaetz made the motion to vacate on Monday, just three days after McCarthy put a so-called “clean” continuing resolution or CR on the floor to avert a government shutdown, passing it with 209 Democratic votes and 125 Republican votes.

Defiant, McCarthy and his allies have lashed out at Gaetz, accusing the Florida Republican of seeking the limelight and holding a personal vendetta against the speaker. They vowed will beat back Gaetz’s efforts to depose McCarthy.

“So be it, bring it on,” McCarthy said during an appearance Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I’ll survive.”

Gaetz’s action comes after months of publicly tangling with McCarthy, who he says failed to live up to promises he made to conservatives during the speaker’s fight in January to significantly cut spending. In fact, it was Gaetz himself who led a band of 20 conservative rebels to oppose McCarthy for the speaker job, leading to 15 grueling rounds of voting before McCarthy finally triumphed.

By filing a so-called “motion to vacate,” Gaetz has now triggered a future floor vote on removing McCarthy as speaker, though it’s unclear exactly when that vote might happen. McCarthy allies almost certainly will try to delay or thwart a vote by “tabling” the motion and referring it to a committee, but that may not work. 

The Gaetz resolution “declaring the Office of Speaker vacant” is privileged, meaning it takes precedence over other House business. Under House rules, privileged matters must be considered within two legislative days.

Gaetz’s motion now puts House Democrats in a political pickle given the GOP’s razor-thin, 221-212 majority. Democrats will have to decide whether to vote with McCarthy foes to topple him as speaker, or side with McCarthy allies to bail him out.

But there’s been little goodwill between Democrats and the California Republican, who criticized, then defended Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, reneged on a debt and budget deal with President Joe Biden, and recently launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

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