Matt Gaetz's gambit to oust McCarthy puts House power in Democrat hands

This move by Gaetz puts the power of House control in the hands of Democrats.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has promised that he would seek to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this week after McCarthy struck a deal with Democrats to pass a 45-day stop gap measure to keep the federal government funded. That measure did not contain funding for the war in Ukraine.

This move by Gaetz puts the power of House control in the hands of Democrats, who have a minority in the House. McCarthy will need 218 votes to stay Speaker, and the Republicans hold 219 seats. This means that votes from his own party against his leadership necessitate Democrat votes for him to retain the office.

In a scathing rebuke of Gaetz, The Wall Street Journal demanded answers as to what the plan is if the upstarts who wanted a government shut down get their way. "Their latest justification is that they want someone they can trust in the job, but Mr. McCarthy has bent over backward to please them. It is never enough. Mr. Gaetz scores Mr. McCarthy for relying on Democrats for the funding bill, but Mr. Gaetz is counting on nearly all Democrats to join him to oust Mr. McCarthy," the WSJ Editorial Board writes.

"The rejectionists claim to be the only Republicans with principles, but their only apparent strategy—and only seeming goal—is to blow everything up," WSJ said.

In January, many consessions were made to get McCarthy elected. These included the Jeffersonian Motion to vacate the Chair, which means that a single person could make a motion to remove McCarthy if, as Rep Anna Paulina Luna said at the time, "he goes back on his word or policy agenda."

Gaetz was asked how much support he had for his planned motion, and said that yes, his gambit intentionally gives Democrats the deciding vote as to whether or not McCarthy will remain speaker. "Enough where House Democrats have a choice: adopt Kevin or ditch him. After this week Kevin McCarthy won’t belong to me anymore."

Gaetz has not indicated who he thinks should be Speaker, nor who he thinks on the Republican side would have the votes. In 2021, Gaetz said he'd like to nominate President Donald Trump to be House Speaker. In January, when Gaetz stood in the way of McCarthy's speakership, he was joined by Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs, Eli Crane, Bob Good and Matt Rosenthal. Crane said he backs Gaetz's forthcoming motion.

Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal of Washington said "We're not saving the Speaker." Gaetz spoke to Democrats prior to formally announcing his plans to bring the motion to vacate, and therefore knew that some Democrats would gladly see McCarthy lose the speakership. Others, however, per Politico, are likely to vote "present," meaning that they would not vote for or against the motion, but that in effect is a help for McCarthy.

Democrats, said one Freedom Caucus Member, are the "biggest part of this equation."

While the stop-gap budget measure did not contain funding for Ukraine, Democrat support would be forthcoming if McCarthy were to hold a vote on Ukraine funding. Democrats fully back the war and US spending on that war, while many Republicans are concerned about funding a new forever war. Biden has said the US would back the war "as long as it takes."

There could be at least 12 Republican House reps who back ousting McCarthy, but his removal can be triggered by just one congressman, per a deal that was struck during the contentious House Speaker vote in January. Gaetz repeatedly and consistently voted against McCarthy's leadership. Per Politico, "one House conservative said they know of at least seven guaranteed votes for the measure, others predicted there are as many as 24 who could ultimately support it."

"Bring it on," McCarthy said on Sunday, indicating that Gaetz is mad McCarthy didn't shut down the government and was able to get the 45-day stop gap resolution passed with Democrat support. "If he’s upset because he tried to push us in a shutdown and I made sure government didn’t shut down, then let’s have that fight."

The Wall Street Journal has a similar view, saying "The Republicans who want to topple Mr. McCarthy are motivated by personal animus that has nothing to do with the public good. The vote to vacate the chair, if it comes to that, will test how self-destructive the nihilist Republicans can be."

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