WASHINGTON — Rep. Matt Gaetz moved late Monday to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House. He has said the California Republican had betrayed the GOP by reaching a deal with Democrats over the weekend to avert — for now — a government shutdown.
Under current rules, any House member may force a vote to remove the speaker. Gaetz, R-Fla., filed such a motion Monday evening. Chamber rules require McCarthy to act on Gaetz’s motion within two days. A simple majority vote can remove him from the speakership.
The outcome of any vote to remove McCarthy remains uncertain and will depend on whether other Republicans vote against him. He can afford to lose only a handful of Republican votes, assuming all Democrats vote against him.
Speaking on steps of the U.S. Capitol, Gaetz said he has enough votes to either remove McCarthy as speaker or force him to cut a deal with Democrats to survive. “I’m at peace with either result because the American people deserve to know who governs them,” Gaetz told reporters.
Shortly after Gaetz filed, McCarthy tweeted, “Bring it on.”
Gaetz replied, “Just did.”
Ever since becoming speaker with a narrow majority, McCarthy has been hamstrung by the conservative wing of his party, showcasing his weakness as a leader. He’s repeatedly failed to unify his party and has repeatedly turned to Democrats to bail him out of crises. In May, a minority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats voted to back McCarthy’s deal with Biden, which suspended the nation’s debt limit in order to avoid the cataclysmic economic fallout of a debt default.
In September, a handful of Republicans repeatedly blocked multiple spending bills McCarthy had hoped to pass to keep the federal government open. The speaker had aimed to present a united Republican front to the Biden administration and the Democratic-controlled Senate in order to boost his party’s position in shutdown negotiations. Gaetz and his allies made that impossible.
At the last minute, McCarthy relied on Democratic votes to send the upper chamber a bipartisian stopgap measure that extended government funding through mid-November. The legislation did not include military aid for Ukraine, a key sticking point for some Republicans whose constituents are growing increasingly worried about the United States’ repeated investment in Ukraine’s war with Russia.
Biden in August asked Congress to send Ukraine an additional $24 billion in aid, saying Kyiv risked defeat if military funding lapsed. Biden and House Democratic leadership said they expected McCarthy to keep his commitment to Ukraine.
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