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Rep. Matt Gaetz launches effort to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has begun the process to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House.
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Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has begun the process to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House.

Updated October 2, 2023 at 9:04 PM ET

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., on Monday started the process for holding a vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker.

Gaetz went to the House floor after regular votes were complete for the night and formally introduced a "motion to vacate," the procedural first step in forcing a vote on McCarthy's future.

Afterwards he told reporters in the Capitol that he believes he has the votes to remove McCarthy, a statement that will be put to the test in the coming days. Gaetz also said the decision was based on what he views as McCarthy's refusal to adhere to concessions made to hardline members in order to win their votes to elect him speaker at the start of the year.

"I believe the basis for the motion to vacate is Kevin McCarthy's repeated breach of the agreement that he made in January," Gaetz said.

McCarthy and his leadership team have been prepared for this move for weeks. McCarthy himself has repeatedly said that anyone who wants to challenge him should "bring it on."

Gaetz moves ahead, other Republicans push back

Gaetz listed many grievances in his explanation, including McCarthy's deal with President Biden to increase the debt limit and set new, higher spending targets for two years. Gaetz also pointed to the speaker's decision to rely on votes from Democrats to pass a spending bill to prevent a shutdown and a rumored agreement with the White House to pass more funding for the war in Ukraine.

"While we were in the middle of this, this government funding battle, a secret side deal on Ukraine is not what the American people want to see out of the Republicans," Gaetz said. "I think the American people deserve to know the coalition that really governs them."

Many Republicans, including some who are also frustrated with McCarthy's leadership, continued to try to convince Gaetz to back down before the motion was filed. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., said he tried to explain that chaos among Republicans was a gift to Democrats.

"It's our job to do the American people's work," Allen told reporters in the Capitol. "If we disrupt the leadership in our conference, you're gonna destroy everything we've worked for for the last almost a year."

After introducing the measure, Gaetz or another lawmaker will have to request a vote on the resolution. The House would then be required to vote within two legislative days, though leadership could choose to expedite the process.

Leaders and members have a number of options for how to proceed in the coming days.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.