Rep. Matt Gaetz’s effort to oust Kevin McCarthy from the House speakership will face its first test Tuesday afternoon as the GOP civil war continues to rage in Congress.
Gaetz, the outspoken Florida Republican who’s dealt with a barrage of scandals since being elected in 2016, has been a consistent antagonist of McCarthy. On Monday night, Gaetz announced he would be filing a “motion to vacate” that — if successful — would remove McCarthy from his post.
Gaetz’s case against McCarthy
Gaetz’s move came after McCarthy agreed over the weekend to support a funding bill that averted a government shutdown. On Monday, Gaetz also accused the speaker of cutting a “secret deal” with Democrats to fund Ukraine’s military in its fight with Russia. Gaetz and other hard-liners object to such funding.
The Florida congressman has also accused McCarthy of spinelessness, saying the speaker loses his “lunch money in every negotiation” with the White House.
McCarthy, meanwhile, has insisted that Gaetz’s issue with him is “personal” and has little to do with politics or policy.
Read more on Yahoo News: What’s at stake in Congress’ debate over Ukraine funding, from Reuters
McCarthy’s chances of survival
McCarthy and his allies can handle Gaetz’s motion in a few ways, but they’re choosing to hold a vote to “table” it on Tuesday afternoon. If that action is successful, it would kill the motion and allow McCarthy to retain his speakership.
The California Republican needs a simple majority of votes, meaning some Democrats could help save him by voting “present” or skipping the vote entirely. It’s unclear how much GOP support Gaetz has for the effort — it could be a handful of legislators up to a couple of dozen.
If there are a half-dozen defections and no Democrats help McCarthy, the process would continue, potentially leading him to lose his position. As of Tuesday morning, there appeared to be little appetite among Democrats to help him, leaving his speakership in doubt.
McCarthy and Democrats could have negotiated for their support in order to guarantee that he holds the position, but he did not, telling CNBC Tuesday morning that Democrats will “decide whatever they’re going to do. And we will live with whatever happens.”
Gaetz, however, has been reaching out to Democrats to try and ensure their votes against McCarthy.
Read more on Yahoo News: McCarthy says he won’t “provide anything” to Democrats to save speakership, from HuffPost
What comes next
If McCarthy cannot table the motion to vacate, the House will then vote on it. If it were to pass and he were ousted from the position of speaker, the role would not remain empty.
Due to plans put in place in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks to ensure the continuance of governance, McCarthy has prepared a “speaker-in-waiting” list from which an interim replacement will be selected.
There are disagreements on how much power that person would actually have, however, with some procedural experts saying a replacement would only be able to oversee the selection of a new speaker.
McCarthy has struggled to corral his Republican colleagues since the onset of his speakership. It took a historic 15 votes over five days to install him in the position.