Rep. Matt Gaetz says he will move to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker this week

Rep. Matt Gaetz says he will move to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker this week

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said Sunday that he intends to file a motion to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., this week after Congress voted to avert a shutdown hours before the deadline.

“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week,” Gaetz said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think we need to rip off the Band Aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy.”

Gaetz also confirmed that he’ll soon file a motion to vacate the speakership in an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week,” after the Senate and House voted on Saturday night to pass a short-term bill to keep the government funded through Nov. 17.

In response to Gaetz’s announcement, McCarthy said, “That’s nothing new. … He’s tried to do that from the moment I ran for office. … Yes, I’ll survive. You know, this is personal with Matt.”

Gaetz is “more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something,” McCarthy added. “So be it, bring it on, let’s get over with it and let’s start governing.”

The short-term funding bill authorizes additional disaster relief money and buys Congress more time to reach a funding agreement for the full year. However, it does not include aid to Ukraine. McCarthy removed the provision from the bipartisan Senate bill, saying it should be considered separately at a later date.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the House Chamber on Jan. 6, 2023.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in the House chamber on Jan. 6, the day before McCarthy became speaker.Olivier Douliery / AFP – Getty Images file

Under the rules adopted earlier this year, any Republican lawmaker can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair, and the House would have to vote on it within two legislative days.

It’s not clear that Gaetz has enough votes to oust McCarthy. He would need at least five Republican lawmakers to vote with him, if all Democrats were to also vote to remove him.

“I don’t think he is worried about it,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., said of McCarthy. “Because he doesn’t believe that there’s 218 people that are going to go to the floor and punish putting a bipartisan bill on the floor to keep the government open. … I don’t see how anybody can square that.”

“We can’t have five people out of 435 — I don’t know what percent that is — completely hijacking our chamber, and therefore hijack our government. The will of the people have to prevail in the United States,” he said Sunday in an interview. “Otherwise the system and the democracy don’t work.”

Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., slammed Gaetz’s plan and called him a “charlatan.”

“He is threatening to remove Speaker McCarthy using at least 200 Democrat votes. He has been reaching out to them for votes! Is the hypocrisy lost on anyone? At least 200 House Rs will be voting to support the Speaker, including me,” the Indiana Republican wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Before Congress passed the bill Saturday, McCarthy announced he would nix Republican demands for spending cuts and policy provisions on immigration in order to hold a quick House vote on a “clean” stopgap bill. His announcement came a day after a group of conservative rebels, led by Gaetz, blocked House Republicans’ short-term funding bill to keep the government open.

McCarthy said Saturday that the vote left him with no choice but to drop Republicans’ demands.

The vote Friday by the 21 conservative rebels to scuttle House Republicans’ 30-day funding bill last week had left them without a plan to avert a shutdown. The rebels had demanded the House to pass all 12 appropriations bills with steep spending cuts, before negotiating funding with the Democratic-controlled Senate. 

The Republicans who joined Gaetz last week in voting down McCarthy’s short-term funding bill included Reps. Andy Biggs, Eli Crane and Paul Gosar of Arizona; Lauren Boebert and Ken Buck, both of Colorado; Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; Tim Burchett and Andy Ogles, both of Tennessee; Alex Mooney, who is running for Senate in West Virginia; Matt Rosendale, who is running for Senate in Montana; and Nancy Mace, who represents a swing district in South Carolina. All these lawmakers also voted against the continuing resolution that passed Saturday night.

Gaetz had threatened to move to oust McCarthy if he worked with Democrats to fund the government with a clean continuing resolution.

“Speaker McCarthy made an agreement with House conservatives in January, and since then he has been in brazen, repeated, material breach of that agreement. This agreement that he made with Democrats, to really blow past a lot the spending guardrails we’d set up, is really the last straw,” Gaetz said on “State of the Union.”

He also accused McCarthy of making a deal with Democrats to pass the CR without Ukraine funding. “Then overnight I learned that Kevin McCarthy had a secret deal with Democrats on Ukraine,” Gaetz said. “So as he was baiting Republicans to vote for a continuing resolution without Ukraine money, saying that we were going to jam the Senate on Ukraine, he then turns around and makes a secret deal.”

President Joe Biden, asked Sunday at a news conference at the White House whether he trusts McCarthy to keep his word about an agreement, said: “We just made one about Ukraine. So we’ll find out.”

During the news conference, Biden would not comment on whether Democrats should support McCarthy’s speakership, reassured Americans that Ukraine funding would be passed and said he hopes “this experience for the speaker has been one of a personal revelation.”

A spokesperson for McCarthy said funding for Ukraine should go side by side with immigration measures.

“Speaker McCarthy has been clear and consistent: we have an obligation to fix the crisis at the border and to ensure any request for further aid to Ukraine is matched with a sound strategy and accountability,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The House will continue to discuss these challenges in the weeks to come.”

Gaetz expressed some confidence when he was asked how many Republicans he thinks will support his motion to vacate, which requires 218 votes to pass.

“Well, enough so that when you host this show next week, if Kevin McCarthy is still the speaker of the House, he will be serving at the pleasure of the Democrats. He will be working for the Democrats,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “The only way Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House at the end of this coming week is if Democrats bail him out.”

McCarthy last month dared his detractors to file the “motion to vacate” the speaker’s chair and try to remove him during a closed-door House GOP meeting. During the meeting, McCarthy told House Republicans, “If you want to file a motion to vacate, then file the f—ing motion,” according to two sources in the room who confirmed the comments to NBC News.

McCarthy’s remarks came in response to members, including Gaetz, who threatened to force him out of the speakership if he doesn’t follow through with their demands, such as putting certain bills on the floor and not passing a stopgap bill to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month.

House Ways and Committee Chair Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., on Sunday called Gaetz’s effort to boot McCarthy from speakership a “waste of time” in an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who served as House speaker before McCarthy assumed the role, echoed Smith’s remarks.

“You’re wasting your time on that guy because he has no sway in the House of Representatives, except to get on TV and raise money on the internet,” Pelosi said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said she would “absolutely” vote for a motion to vacate while making clear that she would not vote for a Republican to replace McCarthy as speaker.

“My vote at the beginning of this term for speaker of the House was for Hakeem Jeffries, and I do not intend on voting for a Republican s speaker of the House,” Ocasio-Cortez said on “State of the Union.”

“But I believe that it’s up to the Republican conference to determine their own leadership and deal with their own problems,” she added. “But it’s not up to Democrats to save Republicans, from themselves especially.”

She said that Democrats may be open to negotiating with McCarthy if he’s at risk of losing his speakership, but that she doesn’t believe they would “give up votes for free.”

CORRECTION (Oct. 1, 2023, 8:07 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the name of the show on which House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith was interviewed. It is Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures”, not “Fox News Business.”

Summer Concepcion

Summer Concepcion is a politics reporter for NBC News.

Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.

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