In Fight for His Job, McCarthy Has Key 'Card to Play'

With Democrats' help, he could raise the threshold for a motion to vacate
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2023 1:00 AM CDT
In Fight for His Job, McCarthy Has Key 'Card to Play'
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Those who tuned out news over the weekend and will wake up Monday surprised to find the government still running missed quite the weekend out of DC. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy bucked his party's hard-liners and got a spending deal passed with the help of Democrats. As a result, his position as speaker is now in jeopardy. Oh, and there was a fire literal alarm pulled amid all this that may or may not have been intentional. So what now? Coverage:

  • Mercy of Democrats: McCarthy's arch-enemy, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, vows he will trigger the infamous "motion to vacate" (MTV) this week, meaning he will force a vote on whether McCarthy should remain speaker. Politico digs deep into the logistics: Gaetz will begin with five to 10 sure votes among Republicans and thus will need as many as 200 Democrats to vote with him. Will they go along? Much depends on House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, who has yet to tip his hand. "He suddenly has enormous leverage, but will have to weigh carefully how aggressively to use it," writes Ryan Lizza. Of course, it's possible, and perhaps likely, that much of this was already worked out behind closed doors as part of the weekend politicking.
  • About that vote: The New York Times has a story seeking to explain McCarthy's about-face. Knowing he had exhausted all options of passing something with only GOP support and worried that Republicans would get blamed for a shutdown, he convened allies in the Capitol basement Saturday morning and surprised them by announcing he would try one last time—this time with a bill that ditched GOP imperatives including tough immigration restrictions and steep spending cuts. Democrats (after stalling to assess the proposal) backed it. In the end, the measure passed 335 to 91, with more Democrats than Republicans in favor. McCarthy is seeking to present himself as the "adult in the room," as he put it, and is defiantly welcoming the MTV.

  • If at first: Gaetz says he will file his MTV multiple times if needed, per the Washington Post. "I might not have him the first time, but I might have him before the 15th ballot," he said, a dig at the number of ballots McCarthy needed to be elected speaker. "I will continue to pursue this objective." The political calculus would likely change with each vote, as either Gaetz or McCarthy gains ground.
  • Secret weapon? The Politico analysis contains an interest nugget—amid the voting, McCarthy "has a card to play," writes Lizza. "He could try to pass a rule that raises the threshold for a motion to vacate from one member, where it is now, to, say, 10 members." He would need Democrats to go along with this plan, but it's possible they've already signaled they would do so as part of their weekend negotiating. "That would finally decapitate Gaetz."
  • Gaetz threatened, too: A CNN backgrounder on what went down over the weekend quotes a House Republican who says Gaetz has enough intra-party enemies that there might be a move to expel him should an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation fail to exonerate him. Fox News reporter Jacqui Henrich tweeted a similar report, with a quote from an unnamed Republican saying of Gaetz: "No one can stand him at this point. A smart guy without morals." Gaetz himself seemed to revel in that particular quote.
(Read more government shutdown stories.)

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