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Republican Matt Gaetz Moves to Formally Remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker

Republican Matt Gaetz Moves to Formally Remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker
Representative Matt Gaetz

(Bloomberg) -- Republican Matt Gaetz officially moved to topple House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday evening, teeing up a high-stakes vote likely to dramatically shift the balance of power in Washington whatever the outcome. 

McCarthy’s embrace on Saturday of a bipartisan deal to avert a US government shutdown triggered the Florida Republican’s mutiny.

Gaetz stood in the well of the House, formally beginning the process. McCarthy must call a vote within two legislative days.

After speaking, Gaetz calmly folded his papers, and walked up the center aisle alone, to laughter and chatter from Democrats on one side of the chamber, and near silence of the few Republicans on the other side.

The move, officially called a motion to vacate the chair, is a parliamentary process that has not resulted in a speaker removal vote since 1910. In that case, then-Speaker Joseph Cannon survived the test.

McCarthy responded defiantly, telling CBS News on Sunday that he’d survive any attempt to remove him.

He needs only a simple majority of House members voting to stop the effort to remove him. Republicans hold a slim majority and just five could join unified Democrats to bounce McCarthy from the speaker’s office.

“If anyone brings a motion to vacate at any time, I will vote for it. I would never vote to retain the speaker,” Virgina Republican Bob Good said earlier Monday. “What he did on Saturday is overwhelming confirmation of the concerns we had in January.”

Good is the only Republican other than Gaetz who is on the record as supporting the motion to vacate. But several others, including Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee, appear to be leaning toward joining Gaetz.

Burchett said Monday night his conscience is telling him to support the motion to vacate.

Some House Democrats have previously said any effort to save McCarthy from a hardliner revolt would be contingent on bipartisan compromises. But the party was noncommittal on Monday.

Read More: How the Weapon Dissident Matt Gaetz Is Aiming at McCarthy Works

“We’ll see,” said Representative Marie Glueskamp Perez of Washington State, one of the most moderate and vulnerable Democrats, said.

Another Democratic moderate, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, said it “saddens” him that McCarthy has lost the trust of his caucus. Phillips, considered to be the Democrat most likely to save McCarthy, took issue with the speaker’s rush to get a vote on the short-term spending bill.

Democrats ultimately supported the measure, but expressed frustration that they had little time to review it.

In 2015, then-Speaker John Boehner resigned when hardliners threatened such a rebellion rather than rely on Democratic votes to remain in power.

–With assistance from Erik Wasson, Laura Litvan, Jonathan Tamari and Maeve Sheehey.

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