McConnell, House Republicans Call for Removing the ‘Motion to Vacate’ Rule

Bill Pan
By Bill Pan
October 5, 2023Congress
McConnell, House Republicans Call for Removing the ‘Motion to Vacate’ Rule
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talks to reporters following the Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 4, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Whoever succeeds Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to hold the House speaker’s gavel should try doing away with the mechanism that allows a single member to force a no-confidence vote on the speaker, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) advised.

“I have no advice to give to House Republicans except one: I hope whoever the next speaker is gets rid of the motion to vacate,” Mr. McConnell said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, after Mr. McCarthy announced that he would not be running again for the top position.

The current House rules allow a single lawmaker to initiate a referendum to oust the speaker. In this case, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a vocal critic of Mr. McCarthy over how his leadership team handled the debt ceiling talks and government spending negotiations, filed the motion.

Following months of trading increasingly bitter charges with the speaker, the Florida congressman brought his long-threatened motion to the House floor on Oct. 2. The final vote on the following day was 216–210, with eight Republicans, including Mr. Gaetz, joining all Democrats to support the removal of Mr. McCarthy as speaker.

This is the first time a speaker of the House was stripped of power.

“I think it makes the speaker’s job impossible,” Mr. McConnell, who who in January became the longest-serving party leader in the history of the Senate, told reporters. “The American people expect us to have a functioning government.”

“To do that job, for anyone, you have to get rid of the motion to vacate because it puts whoever the speaker is in a hammerlock of dysfunction, potential dysfunction,” he added.

Republicans Want Rule Change

Mr. McConnell’s suggestion was welcomed by some House Republicans.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.) on Wednesday criticized fellow Floridian Mr. Gaetz for launching a “coup,” declaring that he won’t be backing any new speaker candidate until the motion-to-vacate mechanism is reformed.

“I’m not supporting ANYONE for Speaker until there is a commitment to reform the Motion to Vacate,” Mr. Gimenez wrote on X. “The coup against Speaker McCarthy was DESPICABLE & must never happen again. No one can govern effectively while being threatened by fringe hostage lawmakers.”

Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) echoed the same concern, calling for changes to the current House rule.

“Apparently the motion to vacate is now a toddler security blanket. Well, we’re grown up, we need to take it away,” Mr. Armstrong said Tuesday on CNBC.

“I want to know how the next speaker is going to ensure what happened yesterday never happens again,” he said.

On Wednesday, Mr. McConnell thanked Mr. McCarthy for his “service to our nation” and praised what he called their “close working partnership” on key issues, such as a recent short-term funding bill to keep the federal government open.

“The Speaker’s tenure was bookended by historic fights, but as he reminded his colleagues when he took the gavel, ‘our nation is worth fighting for,'” Mr. McConnell said in a statement.

Mr. McCarthy, who became speaker in January on the 15th round of voting, said he would not seek to reclaim the seat.

“I will not run for speaker again. I’ll have the [House Republican] Conference pick somebody else,” he said on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers.

Kevin McCarthy
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 5, 2023. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

The Search for a New Speaker

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a former Republican chief deputy whip and Mr. McCarthy’s longtime ally, took over as the interim speaker. The current House rules state that, “in the case of a vacancy in the office of speaker, the next member” named on a list Mr. McCarthy shared with the clerk of the House in January when he took office will become House speaker pro tempore until a new speaker is elected.

Mr. McHenry has yet to signal whether he wants to stay in his new position permanently, while some Republican lawmakers have already thrown their names in.

Two members of Congress so far have announced their bid to be the next speaker: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), the lower chamber’s No. 2 Republican, and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a leading member of the Freedom Caucus.

House Republicans are expected convene on Oct. 10 for a forum led by Mr. McHenry and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), and hear from the candidates. A House-wide speaker election could come the next day.

The House speaker is second in the line of presidential succession, behind only the vice president. While Mr. McHenry could temporarily act as the leader of the House, he is technically not in the line to succeed the president.

That office being left vacant means that the Senate president pro tempore, a position traditionally held by the most senior member of the Senate’s majority party, would move up to second in line. The current Senate president pro tempore is Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the most senior Democrat after late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who declined the role after the last year’s midterm elections.

From The Epoch Times

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