Gaetz Threatening to Oust McCarthy 10/02 06:08
On Sunday, the far-right Republican from Florida threatened to use a
procedural tool -- called a motion to vacate -- to try and strip McCarthy of
his office as soon as this week after he relied on Democrats to provide the
necessary votes to fund the government.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- "How would you be different as speaker, compared to Mr.
Boehner?" a reporter asked then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in
September 2015 as the California Republican pursued, and eventually gave up,
his first attempt at the speakership.
McCarthy laughed while standing next to outgoing Speaker John Boehner -- who
had just stepped down after facing a threat of removal -- and joked that he was
from a different generation and wouldn't be as tan.
Eight years later, McCarthy is finding that there are fewer differences
between them as he faces a conservative revolt against his speakership.
"If somebody wants to remove (me) because I want to be the adult in the
room, go ahead and try," McCarthy told reporters Saturday.
And his critics, namely Rep. Matt Gaetz, plan to do just that. On Sunday,
the far-right Republican from Florida threatened to use a procedural tool --
called a motion to vacate -- to try and strip McCarthy of his office as soon as
this week after he relied on Democrats to provide the necessary votes to fund
"I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid," Gaetz said on CNN. "I think we
need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy."
Here's what you need to know about how the House can remove a speaker:
WHAT IS A MOTION TO VACATE?
The rules of the House allow for any single lawmaker -- Democrat or
Republican -- to make a "motion to vacate the chair," essentially an attempt to
oust the speaker from that leadership post through a privileged resolution.
It's a rare and strong procedural tool that has only been used twice in the
past century. But in recent years, conservatives have wielded the motion as a
weapon against their leaders.
In January, McCarthy, hoping to appease some on the hard right as he fought
to gain their vote for speaker, agreed to give as few as five Republican
members the ability to initiate a vote to remove him. But when that wasn't good
enough for his critics, he agreed to reduce that threshold to one -- the system
that historically has been the norm.
Proponents of allowing a single lawmaker to file the motion said it promotes
accountability, noting its long history in the House. The last use of the
motion was in 2015, when then-Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a Republican
who later became Donald Trump's White House chief of staff, introduced a
resolution to declare the speaker's office vacant. Two months later, Boehner
said he would be stepping down.
No speaker has ever been removed from office through a motion to vacate.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
At any point in time, a member of the House can introduce a privileged
resolution --a designation that gives it priority over other measures -- to
declare the office of the speaker of the House of Representatives vacant.
Once the motion is introduced, the lawmaker can walk onto the House floor
and request a vote. Such a request would force House leaders to schedule a vote
on the resolution within two legislative days.
But there are procedural motions that members of either party could
introduce to slow down or stop the process altogether. If those tactics were to
fail, and the resolution came to the floor for a vote, it would take a simple
majority of the House -- 218 votes, when no seats are vacant -- to remove the
While it has never been successful, a motion to vacate has been used as a
political threat against several speakers throughout history, dating back to
Republican Speaker Joseph Cannon -- who first invoked the resolution against
himself in 1910. The effort failed as his fellow Republicans voted
overwhelmingly to keep him as their leader. But by calling the bluff of his
detractors, Cannon was able to put them on the record and end the threats
In 1997, Republicans frustrated with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich considered
trying to oust him but eventually decided against it. Most recently, the mere
whispers of a motion to vacate forced Boehner out of office and set McCarthy on
the path to the leadership post he has today.
WHO IS TRYING TO OUST MCCARTHY AND WHY?
Just like for Boehner, the call for McCarthy's removal began with just one
man. Gaetz, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, has been
threatening to file the resolution to remove him from the dais ever since
McCarthy was nominated speaker by a majority of the conference earlier this
Gaetz is among 20 or so members who voted against McCarthy round after round
as he fought to become speaker. While others eventually relented and voted in
favor of McCarthy or present, Gaetz fought until the very end.
"This will all be torpedoed by one person who wants to put a motion to
vacate for personal, political reasons, and undermine the will of the
conference and the American people, who elected a Republican majority to
govern," Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., a defender of McCarthy, said Sunday on ABC.
Gaetz and other critics of McCarthy say he has failed to be the conservative
leader the party needs. They have railed against his deal with the White House
over raising the debt limit earlier this year and have demanded the House slash
spending levels to new lows. The group has also made sweeping demands to
reimagine the U.S. government, which they criticize as "woke and weaponized."
DOES A MOTION TO VACATE HAVE THE VOTES TO PASS?
As of right now, it is unclear, but there's reason to be skeptical. No
matter how loud or disruptive they may be, the anti-McCarthy faction is only a
small minority in a Republican conference that is mostly supportive or amenable
to him remaining speaker.
Another problem with the push to remove McCarthy is that there is no clear,
consensus candidate to take his place. And lastly, and maybe more importantly,
Gaetz would need the support of most Democrats to oust McCarthy if the motion
ever came to a vote -- and it's far from certain that they would join him.
"The one thing I agree with my Democrat colleagues on is that for the last
eight months, this House has been poorly led and we own that and we have to do
something about it," Gaetz said on the floor last week. "And you know what? My
Democrat colleagues will have an opportunity to do something about that, too.
And we will see if they bail out our failed speaker."
Gaetz has been speaking to House Democrats from across the ideological
spectrum in recent weeks trying to assess what kind of support, if any, he
would have from those across the aisle if he were to file his motion and it
came to the floor.
"We haven't had a discussion about any hypothetical motion to vacate,"
Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said at a news conference Saturday. "We'll
cross that bridge when we get to it."
IF THEY OUSTED MCCARTHY, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT?
The House would enter uncharted territory if a motion to vacate effort
against McCarthy were to pass the full House.
The speaker of the House, under the rules of the chamber, is required to
keep a list of individuals who can act as speaker pro tempore in the event a
chair is vacated. The list, which is oddly written by the sitting speaker at
any given time, remains with the House Clerk and would be made public if the
speakership were vacant.
The first person on that list would be named speaker pro tempore and their
first order of business would be to hold an election for a new speaker. That
event requires the House to vote as many times as it takes for a candidate to
receive the majority of those present and voting for speaker.
For McCarthy, that process took an unprecedented 15 rounds in January.
New candidates for speaker could emerge, but there's also nothing to stop
Republicans from nominating McCarthy again.