House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is unconcerned a possible motion to vacate the chair being threatened by a member of his own party, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
Two days after engineering the passage of a 45-day continuing resolution on Sept. 30 that averted a government shutdown, the Speaker said his focus was on continuing the appropriations process, not on “playing politics.”
“The government stayed open. We continue to do our work,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters on Oct. 2.
“We’re gonna bring up two more appropriation bills this week. We’ve already gotten 74 percent of the discretionary spending appropriated. We’re going to finish that out like we’re supposed to do,” the Speaker added.
“We’re focused on eliminating wasteful spending, getting the wokeism out, but most importantly on securing our border.”
The threat to unseat the Speaker is driven by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has dangled the possibility several times in recent months but has not acted on it.
Meanwhile, the House must pass eight more appropriations bills and reconcile them with the Senate in seven weeks.
The January Agreement
Under the terms of an agreement that was apparently made between Mr. McCarthy and Republican fiscal hawks in the House, a vote to vacate the chair can be initiated by any member of Congress.
Mr. McCarthy was finally elected in January after four days of voting and a near-record 15 ballots.
While Mr. Gaetz and others frequently insist that Mr. McCarthy has violated other terms of their agreement, none has been willing to specify exactly what those terms are.
However, one appears to be adhering to the so-called Hastert Rule, an unwritten tradition that a Republican speaker will not enlist Democrats to support a bill that a majority of House Republicans oppose.
A funding bill for Ukraine passed the House on Sept. 28 despite a majority of Republicans voting against it.
“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy. This week, I think we need to rip off the band-aid, I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy,” Mr. Gaetz said during an MSNBC interview on Oct. 1.
The following day, Mr. Gaetz took to the House floor to castigate the Speaker for making an alleged side deal with President Joe Biden concerning funding for the war in Ukraine, which Mr. Gaetz opposes.
Mr. Gaetz alleged that, during negotiations over the continuing resolution passed by both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, the Speaker made “a side deal to bring Ukraine legislation to this floor with President Biden and House Democrats.”
Asked about that rumor, Mr. McCarthy responded wearily, “There’s no side deal so I don’t know who’s bringing that up.”
The Speaker said that he had been asked to give Democrats assurances that the continuing resolution would allow for the ongoing transfer of appropriated funds, which is typical when government funding is extended.
“I said, ‘If the continuing resolution doesn’t do that, we’ll fix that. It’s something we do all the time,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Mr. Gaetz’s calls for the Speaker’s removal have grown more intense.
Mr. McCarthy and some other House Republicans see Mr. Gaetz as having a personal vendetta against the speaker.
“This is about the institution. This isn’t about politics,” Mr. McCarthy said. He insisted that if one person with a personal issue or an ethics complaint against them were able to disrupt House business, the House would be unable to govern.
“I’m focused on doing the work that has to be done,” he added.
Mr. Gaetz has been the subject of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee since April regarding allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, sharing inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misusing state identification records, converting campaign funds to personal use and/or accepting a bribe, and receiving an improper gratuity or impermissible gift. Mr. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing.
Commenting on the possibility of a vote to vacate the chair, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), was dismissive of Mr. Gaetz and the effort.
“And as far as I’m concerned when you’re working with Democrats to try to vacate the Speaker, you’re a joke,” Mr. Lawler told reporters on Sept. 29. “This needs to come to an end.”
Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), fiscal hawks who have previously appeared open to considering a motion to vacate the chair, said they oppose the idea during a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Oct. 2.
Most Democrats have so far been cagey in reaction to the possibility of more drama surrounding the Speakership.
Asked about Mr. Gaetz’s most recent comments, Rep. Susan DelBene (D-Wash.), chair of the House’s New Democrat Coalition called them unsurprising and in keeping with the character of the House Republican conference.
“He’s been talking about this … constantly, this entire Congress, so I guess that’s not surprising. It adds to the chaos and dysfunction we’ve seen from the Republican caucus this Congress,” Ms. DelBene said.
“Folks want to see us govern, and, unfortunately, the Republican Party [brings] chaos dysfunction, and dissent,” she added.