Rep. Matt Gaetz is planning to attempt to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from the role this week after the House leader worked with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown on Saturday.
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” the Florida Republican said he intends to file a motion to vacate this week, which would force a vote on whether McCarthy will keep his job.
“Speaker McCarthy made an agreement with House conservatives in January and since then he’s been in brazen, repeated material breach of that agreement,” Gaetz said Sunday. “This agreement that he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we set up is a last straw.”
He added, “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 will be trustworthy.”
That promise from Gaetz is an escalation in the monthslong standoff between McCarthy and the right flank of his conference, which forced him to go through 15 rounds of votes in January to finally win the speaker’s gavel. As part of winning the top job in the House, McCarthy made a deal that would allow just one member to advance a motion to vacate. That deal has kept the California Republican walking a tight rope with his conference throughout the year as he tried to appease the right-wing of his caucus while also attempting to do the basic work of governing.
But McCarthy’s moment of reckoning may have finally come after President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the bill to keep the government open until mid-November just minutes before funding was set to expire at midnight. McCarthy made a sharp about-face earlier in the day and worked with Democrats to overwhelmingly pass a continuing resolution that would avoid a shutdown. The Senate also passed the bill on a bipartisan basis later on Saturday.
That move by McCarthy could well cost him his job, as Gaetz has been promising almost daily. CNN reported on Friday that Gaetz has been approaching Democrats about potential successors to McCarthy if he were to file a motion to vacate, which would force the House to vote on whether to oust the speaker.
McCarthy has been defiant and on Saturday challenged his detractors to try and push him out of the job.
“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it,” McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju at a press conference. “There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what’s best for this country.”
The Florida Republican accused McCarthy of lying in negotiations over the continuing resolution.
“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. And the reason we were backed up against the shutdown politics is not a bug of the system. It’s a feature,” he said.
For many Democrats, the idea of saving McCarthy – by voting to table or vote present on a measure to oust him – is unimaginable, meaning they may be more inclined to side with Gaetz. The speaker, they argue, has violated their trust by launching an impeachment inquiry and going back on an agreement he struck with the White House on spending levels.
It’s clear that Gaetz has been working for days – if not longer – to take the temperature of House Democrats and their desire to force McCarthy out of the speakership.
“The only way Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House at the end of this coming week is if Democrats bail him out. Now, they probably will. I actually think that when you believe in nothing as Kevin McCarthy does, everything’s negotiable and I think he’ll cut a deal with the Democrats,” he said.
When asked how he would have the Democrats help oust McCarthy, Gaetz said, “I think Democrats should vote against McCarthy for free” and added if they do help him retain his speakership, “He will be their speaker, not mine.”
The House is gaveled out until Monday so that is the earliest it could happen; then leadership would have two days to schedule the vote.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.