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Republican congressman says debt deal could trigger motion to remove McCarthy as House Speaker

By Sarah May on
 May 31, 2023

With the clock ticking toward a possible default, and the House of Representatives poised to vote on a compromise bill as soon as this evening, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL-01) has indicated that if Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) pushes the legislation over the finish line without a majority in his own party, a motion for his ouster will “immediately follow,” as The Hill reports.

A significant contingent within the House GOP has already signaled opposition to the deal, prompting Gaetz to declare, “If a majority of Republicans are against a piece of legislation, and you use Democrats to pass it, that would immediately be a black letter violation of the deal we had with McCarthy to allow his ascent to the speakership, and it would likely trigger an immediate motion to vacate.”

Cautionary Words

As Reuters points out, the Republicans' narrow House majority means that the bill's passage will require support from both the GOP and members of the Democratic Party, and representatives from both factions have expressed concerns over aspects of the legislation.

Gaetz is among the roughly 30 House Republicans who have already said they cannot support the bill, and he has made it clear that McCarthy runs a serious risk to his leadership position by relying on Democrats to get his deal with Biden over the finish line.

Hinting that a motion to vacate could well follow such a scenario, Gaetz said, “I think Speaker McCarthy knows that. That's why he's working hard to make sure he gets, you know, 120, 150, 160 votes” out of the 222 Republican members.

“And that's why those of us who are not supportive of the bill are trying to point out that many of the changes are cosmetic in nature,” the Florida congressman added.

Shifting Sands

Notably, before an agreement was reached and the details of the compromise started to emerge over the weekend, Gaetz indicated that he did not expect any “serious threat” to McCarthy's hold on power, suggesting that any debt limit deal would secure passage with the support of roughly 80 to 100 Democrats and somewhere between 140 and 160 Republicans, according to The Hill.

Those sentiments were confirmed by the lawmaker on Twitter, where he wrote, “Literally nobody except the press is talking about removing McCarthy right now.”

On Tuesday, however, Republican Rep. Dan Bishop (NC-08) said that he would be in support of a motion to vacate against McCarthy due to his disagreement with the contours of the debt ceiling compromise he struck with Biden, as The Hill reported separately.

“I think it's got to be done,” Bishop declared, though he did not immediately pledge to file such a motion, adding, “I'll decide that in conjunction with others.”

Roy Joins Opposition

As Reuters notes, the bargain between McCarthy and Biden would raise the debt ceiling through Jan. 1 , 2025, in exchange for some caps on government spending, a claw-back of certain COVID-19 relief funds, and bolster work requirements for some federal entitlement programs, among other concessions sought by Republicans.

However, in the estimation of GOP Rep. Chip Roy (TX-21), the agreement remains unacceptable, and he is urging his fellow Republicans to stand with him in opposition to its passage.

“I want to be very clear: Not one Republican should vote for this deal. Not one. If you're out there watching this, every one of my colleagues, I'm gonna be very clear: Not one Republican should vote for this deal,” Roy said.

Speaking to conservative radio personality Glenn Beck on Tuesday, Roy added, “If I can't kill it, if we can't kill it on the floor tomorrow, then we're going to have to then regroup and figure out the whole leadership arrangement again,” referencing a potential motion to vacate.

McCarthy's Fate in the Balance?

As CNBC News notes, the measure itself cleared a major procedural hurdle in the House Rules Committee on Tuesday night, and it is slated for a floor vote on Wednesday evening.

That is not to say that the staunch opposition among certain Republicans to McCarthy and his deal has abated to any noteworthy degree, with Rep. Andy Biggs (AZ-05) stating, as The Hill noted, “Let me put it this way. I think this bill indicates exactly why I have concerns about him being Speaker.”

Republican Rep. Ralph Norman (SC-05) lamented, “There is a reason why 100 Democrats, none of which voted for our initial bill, is now for it. They got want they want. And Kevin McCarthy did a good job of speaking the language.”

McCarthy, for his part, has evinced no outward fear with regard to his grip on the speaker's gavel, stating on Sunday that he was “not at all concerned” with rumblings about removal coming from his party's base, but whether that confidence is well-founded, only time will tell.