WASHINGTON ― Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Monday followed through on his threat to try to oust Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Gaetz announced Monday evening on the House floor that he had filed a resolution that could force a no-confidence vote in McCarthy this week.
Gaetz suggested he didn’t care if the resolution failed to actually remove McCarthy from his job.
“At this point next week, one of two things will happen: Kevin McCarthy won’t be the speaker of the House, or he’ll be the speaker of the House working at the pleasure of the Democrats,” Gaetz told reporters afterward. “And I’m at peace with either result because the American people deserve to know who governs them.”
Gaetz is a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, one of the loudest Donald Trump supporters on Capitol Hill and a major attention seeker. For the past week, Washington has watched and waited as the Florida Republican repeated his threats ― which he’s been making since January ― to make his move against McCarthy.
Speaking from the Capitol steps at the center of a crowd of reporters, Gaetz claimed McCarthyhas breached an agreement he struck with his fellow Republicans when he put himself forward for the speakership earlier this year.
The top grievances? That the House hasn’t passed bills individually funding federal agencies and thatMcCarthy prevented the federal government from shutting down last week by allowing the chamber to vote on a government funding bill that drew support from Democrats.
Gaetz also claimed McCarthy had struck a “secret side deal” with Democrats to allow a vote on more military assistance for Ukraine, which McCarthy denied earlier on Monday.
“He says a lot of things that aren’t true,” McCarthy said of Gaetz.
Gaetz denied having any personal beef with McCarthy, thought they’ve certainly feuded. McCarthy reportedly told Gaetz to “get a life,” for instance, when he saw him ask a young White House aide to help him find his cabin one night during a 2019 retreat at Camp David in Maryland.
House rules allow a single lawmaker to file a resolution declaring the speaker’s office vacant, meaning McCarthy would be stripped of his gavel if a majority of House members voted for the resolution. Because the resolution is “privileged,” according to the rules, the speaker has to schedule a vote within two days.
But the resolution will not necessarily get a vote. A majority of Republicans likely oppose ousting McCarthy, and it’s possible they could either get enough support from Democrats to block the resolution from the floor or get enough Democrats to support reelecting McCarthy as speaker. If the speaker’s office is declared vacant, then the House has to elect a speaker with a majority vote, a process that took several days for McCarthy to prevail in January.
Democrats have not indicated whether they’d throw support behind McCarthy or try to extract policy concessions in exchange for backing him.
“Does Mr. Gaetz or anybody else have a plan for the next speaker? Because no business can be conducted in this House if we don’t have a speaker,” Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) told HuffPost. “So either you want to fund the military and the border and make sure that all of these vital programs are intact or you want to go on television and get clicks on the internet.”
All year, Gaetz has talked a lot about overthrowing McCarthy but less about who would replace him. He suggested Monday that he wouldn’t mind seeing Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), currently McCarthy’s top deputy, taking the gavel.
“I would probably vote for at least 100 Republicans in our caucus and maybe 100 other Americans out there who wouldn’t necessarily need to be a member of the body to be considered for the speakership,” Gaetz said.