Matt Gaetz’s McCarthy Challenge: A Wile E. Coyote-Level Scheme?

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Florida Republican Representative followed through on his threat to declare the Speaker’s office vacant. Kevin McCarthy, if he succeeds, will become the first speaker to be removed from office by the House.

Gaetz’s “declare chair vacant” gambit is a result of the deal McCarthy had to make to become speaker in January 2022. The deal stipulated that a petition for the vacant chair had to be presented to the floor, and the Speaker could not sandbag it in the Rules Committee. McCarthy’s decision to make a deal with House Democrats in order to pass a continuing resolution for 45 days is the primary cause.

Gaetz, who raised a privilege question Monday night, began a process that would force a vote to be taken on the measure. These moves are collectively known as “the motion to vacate the Chair.”

Gaetz, after his announcement in the House, told reporters that he no longer had Gaetz’s support. He also did not have the support of the required number of Republicans.

The motion to vacate will need to be put to a vote within two legislative days. It is more likely that, before voting on the actual resolution, the House would vote first on a mechanism to delay or kill it, like voting to table it.

Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Eli Crane, and Rep. Bob Good all said that they supported Gaetz on Monday. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said that he was still “prayer about it” but that his conscience “tells me to – vote him out.”

McCarthy could lose as many as twenty GOP votes if things go wrong for him. The House currently has 221 Republicans and only 212 Democrats. If the Democrats vote in a group against the resolution, he could be removed from office for losing five GOP votes. I don’t know if anyone thought this plan through any more than Wile-E-Coyote did.

McCarthy is sure to lobby for the votes of restive Republicans, but with only a handful needed to remove him, McCarthy must make a decision. McCarthy can resign his seat in Congress and be removed from office, or he could cut a deal to gain the support of Hakeem Jeffreys. My money says McCarthy cuts a deal.

What does this mean? This means that McCarthy’s decisions will likely be influenced more by the Democrats. McCarthy controls the parliamentary system and can move Democrat bills through the House while burying GOP bills that the Democrats oppose. McCarthy will be able to ignore rebel Republicans and still maintain his job, which means the Freedom Caucus’ seat at the table may not exist anymore.

Who will become Speaker if Gaetz’s petition succeeds? Steve Scalise is the only person I can think of who would be able to pull enough votes to win. However, he suffers from serious health problems that make it difficult for him to serve as Speaker. It’s easy to imagine the geniuses behind this plan allowing a Democrat as Speaker.

No matter what the result of the vote is, I do not see how this fiasco will move the ball forward either for the Freedom Caucus OR the GOP. McCarthy won’t have any incentive to work with conservatives after forcing a vote for McCarthy’s removal, which will almost certainly fail. This move does not even help Matt Gaetz in his ambitions. This vote will not improve Matt Gaetz’s chances to become the next Governor of Florida.

I see this as the political equivalent of trolling someone on Twitter. Some people will find it incredibly popular, but the majority will shake their heads in disbelief that such an ill-conceived thing actually happened.