Motion to Vacate in Question After McCarthy Ousted

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
October 5, 2023Congress

Lawmakers on both sides of the House are weighing their options after 8 Republicans and 208 Democrats passed a motion, brought by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from his position as House speaker on Tuesday.

The decision to remove Mr. McCarthy from the speakership came less than a year into his role. Mr. McCarthy only gained the speakership after the House held 15 votes in January—and after enough Republican holdouts eventually agreed to support his speakership bid.

Mr. McCarthy offered several concessions to shore up support for the speakership, including lowering the threshold for members of his party to trigger a motion to vacate him from the position. Now, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is among the Republicans calling to once again raise the threshold to vacate the next House speaker.

“We’re going to have to talk as a conference about the rules,” Ms. Greene told NTD on Thursday. “Motion to vacate is a tool to hold a speaker accountable. But we don’t want to continue going forward in a situation where … anyone can motion to vacate at any time for any reason.”

Ms. Greene had supported Mr. McCarthy’s speakership, but has also worked closely with Mr. Gaetz on several issues in the past. Both Ms. Greene and Mr. Gaetz had expressed discontent with how the House Republican majority has handled budget negotiations in recent weeks. Mr. Gaetz cited concerns about Mr. McCarthy’s leadership in those budget negotiations when he launched his effort to remove the House speaker this week.

Prior to the vote to vacate Mr. McCarthy from the speakership, Ms. Greene had referred to Mr. Gaetz as “my friend” and reiterated her concerns about the budget process, while at the same time urging her fellow Republicans to avoid what she called a “family feud” over the speakership.

Gaetz Willing to Change Motion-to-Vacate Rule

On Thursday, Mr. Gaetz indicated he would be willing to raise the threshold to file a motion to vacate the House speaker if his fellow Republicans would, in turn, back a series of Congressional reforms he and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) both agree on.

Last month, Mr. Khanna made a speech on the House floor, in which he called for imposing term limits on congress, banning congressional stock trading, and banning political donations through lobbyists and political action committees (PACs). On Thursday, Mr. Gaetz reposted a clip of Mr. Khanna’s House floor speech, indicating he would accept revised motion-to-vacate (MTV) rules in exchange for the reforms Mr. Khanna described.

“Ok. Let’s negotiate. My GOP colleagues want to raise the threshold on the motion to vacate. This is a question for all of them. If we enact the reforms @RepRoKhanna lays out here … How high would you like the MTV threshold to be? Because I’ll basically give you whatever you want on the MTV for this stuff.”

Last Congress, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Khanna both cosponsored legislation to ban congressional stock trading, known as the “TRUST in Congress Act.” Mr. Gaetz joined a bipartisan letter calling on then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-House Minority Leader McCarthy to allow a vote on such legislation.

“We need to ban members from trading stock. We need to ban members from becoming lobbyists. And I was encouraged that Representative Gaetz agrees with that. And these are the reforms that should be part of the conversation, whoever the new speaker is,” Mr. Khanna told NTD News on Thursday.

Greene ‘Solidly Supporting’ Trump for Speaker

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have already launched bids to replace Rep. McCarthy.

Mr. Gaetz has indicated he could support speakership bids by Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), House Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).

While many House Republicans may be looking within Congress for their next speaker, others may entertain a speakership bid by someone outside of the legislature. Some Republicans have even floated the idea of naming former president and 2024 Republican frontrunner Donald Trump to the speakership role.

Ms. Greene is one such Republican who has said she’s “solidly supporting” President Trump over the two Republicans who have announced speakership bids thus far.

“He’s got a four-year track record. As president, his policies are the exact policies that make America great again, and this is what everyone wants back,” said Ms. Greene, who has already endorsed Mr. Trump’s 2024 presidential run.

President Trump briefly addressed the speakership discussion on Wednesday outside a New York courtroom where he and his legal team have been defending against a civil lawsuit over allegations the Trump Organization inflated the value of its various real estate properties. President Trump didn’t give a direct answer when asked if he would consider serving as the next House speaker. Instead, he said he would do what he could to help Republicans—but indicated he’s primarily focused on his current presidential campaign.

“We’re leading by like 50 points,” President Trump said of the Republican primary. “My focus is totally on that. If I can help them during the process I would do it. But we have some great people in the Republican Party that will do a great job as speaker.”

Ms. Greene insisted the former president remains receptive to the idea of the speakership.

“I’ve talked with him about it. I will nominate him. I’m supporting him to everyone I talk to, and I think he’s definitely open to it,” she said.

Speakership Contest Could Impact Ukraine Aid

One issue that could divide Republicans during the speakership contest is support for Ukraine. Mr. Jordan has indicated he would not set additional rounds of Ukraine aid as a top priority going forward.

“The most pressing issue on Americans’ minds is not Ukraine,” Mr. Jordan told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “It is the border situation and it is crime on the streets.”

Mr. Jordan, Mr. Gaetz, and Ms. Greene were among the 117 House Republicans who voted last week in opposition to a $300 million Ukraine aid package. Mr. Scalise and Mr. McCarthy were among the 101 House Republicans who joined 210 House Democrats to pass the Ukraine spending. While there may be enough bipartisan support to pass new Ukraine-related funding, the sharp division within the House’s majority party could strain Republicans as they seek a new speaker.

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