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What to watch in Gaetz vs. McCarthy speaker fight

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — Rep. Matt Gaetz said Monday night he would seek to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his leadership spot, dragging their feud onto the House floor and potentially putting Democrats in a position to save or sink the California Republican.

Gaetz’s declaration he would offer a privileged resolution to vacate the speaker’s chair starts a clock that should lead to votes within two days under House rules. Gaetz, R-Fla., did not go into his reasons, but earlier he gave a speech blasting McCarthy for an alleged “secret side deal” over Ukraine aid funding he said the speaker cut with Democrats on Saturday as the House passed a seven-week stopgap funding bill that got 335 votes, with 90 Republicans opposing it.

As GOP and Democratic members continue saying publicly they wonder if McCarthy is a trustworthy deal-maker, President Joe Biden on Sunday told reporters “we just made one about Ukraine, so we’ll find out” if the speaker later this year tries advancing legislation to further help the Eastern European country in its war with Russia. Most House Republicans last week voted against providing new monies to Kyiv, while Democrats are in line with Biden about providing additional aid this year.

“For all the crocodile tears about what may happen later this week about a motion to vacate, working with the Democrats is a yellow brick road that has been paved by Speaker McCarthy, whether it was the debt limit deal, the (continuing resolution) or now the secret deal on Ukraine,” Gaetz said during a floor speech. “This is swampy logrolling.”

By introducing a motion to vacate, Gaetz ironically is manufacturing a scenario he also mocks: McCarthy would likely have little choice but to try winning over enough Democrats to keep his job.

Gaetz challenged McCarthy to come clean about the deal to which the president alluded, saying, “I’ll be listening.”


He later told reporters he would not negotiate with McCarthy on a potential deal to end his vacate push.

“I think the die is cast based on the motion I just filed. I think the time for that discussion would have been over the last several weeks,” he said arguing McCarthy broke the word he gave Republicans when he was elected speaker after 15 ballots. “But instead we saw the speaker continuing. I mean, the speaker did not just fail to remediate the breach of the agreement he made with us in January. He accelerated the instances of breach.”

Some members have already taken a position on a vote to oust McCarthy and bring the chamber to a standstill. But on Monday, many said they wanted time to mull such a decision and hear from their colleagues during conference meetings over the next few days, including Democratic leadership, which has not yet given its members advice.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., said there was “dead silence” in the chamber as Gaetz made his move because “there’s a certain gravity to this.”


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