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Matt Gaetz, the Republican congressman from Florida, has made a move to remove Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, setting the stage for a vote within 48 hours to determine McCarthy’s political future.
Gaetz took this bold step to oust McCarthy late on Monday, just two days after the Speaker brokered a deal with Democrats to avoid a costly government shutdown.
In the House, Gaetz introduced a resolution declaring the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives vacant. This is only the third time in US history that a motion to vacate has been filed to remove a Speaker.
After months of tension between the two men, this vote becomes a make-or-break moment for McCarthy, which must take place within two days. He will need a majority of the House of Representatives’ votes in his favor to remain in his position.
McCarthy and his allies have expressed their readiness to face the challenge. Shortly after Gaetz’s motion, McCarthy responded on X, formerly Twitter, saying “Bring it on.”
However, McCarthy has limited options, as Republicans barely control the lower chamber of Congress. If Gaetz is supported by more than a few Republican rebels, McCarthy will need a significant number of Democratic lawmakers to vote in his favor and save him from losing the Speaker’s position.
Democratic leadership in the House has not yet indicated how they will instruct their members to vote. However, it is highly unlikely that McCarthy will have the support of all Democrats.
Pramila Jayapal, the Democratic congresswoman from Washington state and influential head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has repeatedly stated that her group will not “save McCarthy.”
But other Democrats are wary of giving Gaetz a victory. Steve Cohen, the Democratic congressman from Tennessee, told Axios that “[McCarthy] did the right thing… and I’ll definitely vote not to vacate. I expect a good number of Democrats will as well.”
Gaetz has been a thorn in McCarthy’s side since January when he was his chief opponent, refusing to support McCarthy’s bid for the Speaker’s position. McCarthy was elected Speaker on the 15th round of voting, after Gaetz changed his vote from “no” to “present”.
However, Gaetz intensified his pressure on the Speaker over the weekend when McCarthy brokered a bipartisan deal to avoid a government shutdown.
On Friday, 21 Republican rebels, including Gaetz, voted against a temporary government funding proposal put forward by McCarthy, which included significant budget cuts, a key sticking point for Democrats.
On Saturday, McCarthy came up with a new proposal to maintain government funding at current levels until mid-November. This deal was accepted by House Democrats, even though it did not include additional aid for Ukraine. However, it cost McCarthy the support of 90 members of his own conference who opposed the measure.
Gaetz insists that McCarthy deserves consequences for working with Democrats. However, several rebels who voted against the compromise deal on Saturday, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, the hardline Republican congresswoman from Georgia, have since stated that they do not believe McCarthy should be ousted.