Rep. Matt Gaetz is planning to attempt to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from the role this week after the House leader worked with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown on Saturday.
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” the Florida Republican said he intends to file a motion to vacate this week, which would force a vote on whether McCarthy will keep his job.
“Speaker McCarthy made an agreement with House conservatives in January, and since then he’s been in brazen, repeated material breach of that agreement,” Gaetz said Sunday. “This agreement that he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we set up is a last straw.”
He added, “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 will be trustworthy.”
That promise from Gaetz is an escalation in the monthslong standoff between McCarthy and the right flank of his conference, which forced him to go through 15 rounds of votes in January to finally win the speaker’s gavel. As part of winning the top job in the House, McCarthy made a deal that would allow just one member to advance a motion to vacate. That deal has kept the California Republican walking a tight rope with his conference throughout the year as he has tried to appease the right wing of his caucus while also attempting to do the basic work of governing.
McCarthy’s response to Gaetz later Sunday was straightforward, telling the Floridian to “bring it on.”
“That’s nothing new,” McCarthy said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“Yes, I’ll survive. You know, this is personal with Matt. Matt voted against the most conservative ability to protect our border, secure our border. He’s more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something.”
He added: “So be it, bring it on. Let’s get over with it and let’s start governing.”
McCarthy’s moment of reckoning may have finally come after President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the bill to keep the government open until mid-November just minutes before funding was set to expire at midnight. McCarthy made a sharp about-face earlier in the day and worked with Democrats to overwhelmingly pass a continuing resolution that would avoid a shutdown. The Senate passed the bill on a bipartisan basis later Saturday.
That move by McCarthy could well cost him his job, as Gaetz has been promising almost daily.
GOP Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona, another Republican hardliner who’s been critical of McCarthy, signaled support for his ouster in a post on X Sunday.
“Lets roll!” Crane said in response to Gaetz’s vow to file a motion to vacate this week.
CNN reported on Friday that Gaetz has been approaching Democrats about potential successors to McCarthy if he were to file a motion to vacate, which would force the House to vote on whether to oust the speaker.
McCarthy has been defiant and on Saturday challenged his detractors to try to push him out of the job.
“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it,” McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju at a news conference. “There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what’s best for this country.”
The Florida Republican accused McCarthy of lying in negotiations over the continuing resolution.
“Look, the one thing everybody has in common is that nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy. He lied to Biden, he lied to House conservatives. He had appropriators marking to a different number altogether. And the reason we were backed up against the shutdown politics is not a bug of the system. It’s a feature,” Gaetz said.
A senior Democratic source told CNN that most members of their caucus are skeptical about saving McCarthy given that he has shown little interest in working with Democrats and that he launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden.
McCarthy, multiple sources said, has yet to reach out to Democratic leaders in a serious negotiation on this issue. But there could be some rank-and-file Democratic moderates who try to find a way to help McCarthy stay in power if they get something in exchange.
Another Democratic source said the caucus will give House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries room to navigate this and the caucus will discuss this week.
Still, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday in a separate interview on “State of the Union” that she would “absolutely” vote to oust McCarthy.
“I think Kevin McCarthy is a very weak speaker. He clearly has lost control of his caucus. He has brought the United States and millions of Americans to the brink, waiting until the final hour to keep the government open, and even then only issuing a 45-day extension,” she said.
It’s clear that Gaetz has been working for days – if not longer – to take the temperature of House Democrats and their desire to force McCarthy out of the speakership.
“The only way Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House at the end of this coming week is if Democrats bail him out. Now, they probably will. I actually think that when you believe in nothing as Kevin McCarthy does, everything’s negotiable and I think he’ll cut a deal with the Democrats,” he said.
When asked how he would have the Democrats help oust McCarthy, Gaetz said, “I think Democrats should vote against McCarthy for free” and added if they do help him retain his speakership, “He will be their speaker, not mine.”
Speaking to reporters at an Iowa campaign event on Sunday, former President Donald Trump said Republicans could have gotten a “much better deal,” but declined to comment on whether he expects McCarthy to remain speaker.
“I don’t know anything about those efforts, but I like both of them very much,” Trump said of Gaetz and McCarthy.
The House is gaveled out until Monday, so that is the earliest the motion could happen; leadership would then have two days to schedule the vote.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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