Understanding a ‘Motion to Vacate’ – The Procedure that Could Oust Speaker McCarthy


Article Summary
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican US House of Representatives speaker, is facing a potential ousting by members of his own party, led by Representative Matt Gaetz. This is due to McCarthy’s decision to pass a stopgap funding measure with Democratic support to prevent a government shutdown. A motion to vacate, a procedure to remove the House speaker, has been threatened and would require a simple majority to pass; given the current balance of power, McCarthy could afford to lose no more than four votes.

US House Speaker McCarthy Faces Ouster Attempt by Fellow Republicans

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces an attempt to oust him by fellow Republicans due to his support for a stopgap funding measure to prevent a government shutdown, which received Democratic backing. Representative Matt Gaetz, a notable hardline Republican, has announced his intention to initiate a “motion to vacate”, the House’s procedure to remove its speaker.

What is a “Motion to Vacate”

The motion to vacate allows any House member, regardless of party affiliation, to initiate the ousting of its speaker. If classified as a “privileged” resolution, the House is obligated to consider it at some point, although it may be postponed through procedural votes. Given the current House composition of 221 Republicans to 212 Democrats, McCarthy cannot afford to lose more than four votes to retain his position as speaker.

Why is McCarthy Under Threat?

McCarthy’s vulnerability stems from the concessions he made to hardline Republicans during his election as speaker, including the decision to allow a single member to initiate a motion to vacate. This marked a departure from the rules under his Democratic predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, and it allows hardliners to challenge McCarthy’s speakership at any time. Representative Gaetz, a known McCarthy critic, has repeatedly threatened to use this tool.

Previous Use of the Motion to Vacate

The motion to vacate was first utilized in 1910 by Republican speaker Joseph Cannon to force his party’s detractors to reveal their stance on his leadership – his motion failed. Later instances saw it threaten speakers like Newt Gingrich in 1997 and John Boehner in 2015. Although Gingrich successfully resisted the motion, he resigned following poor midterm results the next year. Boehner, similarly, stepped down shortly after the motion was filed against him due to difficulties managing his party’s expanding conservative faction.

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