Gaetz tries to unseat McCarthy, threatening his control of the presidency | ET REALITY


Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida moved Monday to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from office in an act of revenge that posed the clearest threat yet to McCarthy’s tenure and could plunge the House into chaos.

After days of warnings, Gaetz rose Monday night to introduce a resolution declaring the president’s position vacant. That began a process that would force a vote within days on whether to keep McCarthy in office. In doing so, Gaetz sought to subject McCarthy to a rare form of political punishment experienced by only two other speakers in the 234-year history of the House of Representatives.

The move came just days after McCarthy opted to avoid a government shutdown the only way he could: by relying on Democratic votes to push through a stopgap spending bill over the objections of an unmovable bloc of voters. hardliners in his own party, including Mr. Gaetz.

It was a brief but tense interruption to the House’s daily proceedings. McCarthy was not present on the House floor when Gaetz introduced his motion, but dozens of Democrats crowded the hallways to witness the spectacle. The House adjourned shortly after, but under House rules, McCarthy and his leadership team must address the matter within two legislative days.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear who the House speaker already works for, and it’s not the Republican conference,” Gaetz said earlier Monday, defending McCarthy’s ouster. He added that the speaker had allowed President Biden to take his “lunch money in every negotiation.”

Gaetz cited McCarthy’s reliance on Democrats to pass the funding bill, which was necessary to avoid a shutdown because Gaetz and 20 of his colleagues opposed a temporary funding bill. And he accused McCarthy of lying to his Republican members during spending negotiations and making a “secret deal” with Democrats on Ukraine funding, which he and dozens of other conservatives have opposed.

The move is a significant escalation of the long-running power struggle between McCarthy and a group of hardline conservatives in his party. They have threatened to dethrone the president since his election, after subjecting him to a painful round of 15 votes.

McCarthy, a chronic optimist who has demonstrated a remarkable willingness to endure political pain to maintain his grip on the speaker’s gavel, seemed undaunted. Minutes after Gaetz introduced the resolution, he wrote on social media: “Go ahead.”

“I think it’s detrimental to the country and my focus is solely on doing our job,” McCarthy said earlier Monday. “I want to win the vote so I can finish the job for the American people. “There are certain people who have done this since the day we arrived.”

Gaetz’s animosity toward McCarthy extends far beyond the most recent financial skirmish. He emerged as McCarthy’s chief tormentor during the president’s fight in January, when he suggested on the House floor that the California Republican had “sold shares of himself for more than a decade” and had never stopped doing so.

It was to appease Gaetz and the 19 other Republicans who opposed his presidency that McCarthy agreed to change House rules to allow any lawmaker to call an early vote for his impeachment.

After McCarthy reached a bipartisan deal with Biden in the spring to suspend the debt ceiling, there were rumblings among the far right about moving forward with an override motion. Instead, they settled for closing the House floor.

It was unclear how many Republicans planned to join Gaetz in his bid to unseat McCarthy. Some ultraconservatives who have criticized the president have said in recent days that they would not support impeaching him now.

But Gaetz told reporters at the Capitol that he had enough Republican support. the endorsement will stand unless Democrats vote to save McCarthy.

“I have enough Republicans,” he said. Four other Republicans, Reps. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Eli Crane and Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Bob Good of Virginia, have said they were inclined to support the motion. Many more have shown signs of openness on the matter.

It remained to be seen whether Democrats would help McCarthy keep his job. If they voted against McCarthy, as is almost always the case when a president from the opposite party is elected, Gaetz would need only a handful of Republicans to join the opposition to unseat him, which requires a simple majority. vote.

But McCarthy could keep his gavel if enough Democrats voted for him, skipped the vote altogether, or voted “present.” In that situation, Democrats who did not register a vote would lower the threshold for a majority and make it easier to defeat Gaetz’s motion.

Some Democrats representing moderate and conservative-leaning districts have indicated they would find it difficult to punish McCarthy for working across both parties to avoid a shutdown.

But others said they saw no reason to bail him out, pointing to the series of concessions McCarthy has made to appease his right flank. These include opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden and reneging on spending levels negotiated with the president during the debt limit crisis.

In a statement, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., sharply criticized McCarthy for his opposition to abortion rights and measures to combat climate change. She called him “a weak speaker who has routinely put his own self-interest before his constituents, the American people and the Constitution.”

McCarthy “has set out to cover up a criminal conspiracy by Donald Trump and is himself a threat to our democracy,” he said. “He literally voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, overthrow the duly elected president, and did nothing to dissuade his members from doing the same.”

Gaetz’s antics have infuriated McCarthy allies, who view the Florida Republican’s campaign as a publicity stunt motivated by personal animosity. As Gaetz waited to speak on the House floor Monday, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., stood up and berated him to his face without naming him. McClintock said he could not “conceive of a more counterproductive and self-destructive course” than trying to remove the president from his own party.

“I implore my Republican colleagues to leave behind their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their parochial interests and their selfish views,” McClintock said.

Even some Republicans who initially opposed McCarthy’s presidency indicated Monday that they would not support Gaetz’s attempt to unseat him. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, an influential conservative, said on “The Sean Hannity Show” that he believed “the speaker deserves the ability to finish the process this year.”

But he hinted that he would be willing to get rid of McCarthy if the president approved aid to Ukraine without also securing the southern border.

“Then we took the gloves off,” Mr. Roy said.

There are a number of procedural sleights of hand that McCarthy and his allies could use to try to avoid an up-or-down vote on whether to keep him as president. He could hold a vote to table the resolution, which would effectively nullify it, or refer it to a committee made up of his allies.

Still, Gaetz’s decision pushes the House into rarely explored waters.

Only two other speakers have faced override motions: once in 1910 and, more recently, in 2015, when Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, attempted to unseat President John A. Boehner. The House never voted on the motion, but it contributed to Boehner’s decision to give up his gavel and resign from Congress.

Lucas Broadwater and Karoun Demirjian contributed with reports.

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