A hard right lawmaker in the United States has launched a bid to remove House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the most serious showdown yet within the Republican party as it battles to contain firebrand supporters of ex-president Donald Trump.
Matt Gaetz, a representative from Florida and Trump loyalist, entered a resolution from the House floor late on Monday setting in motion a snap vote that is likely to take place in the coming days.
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“I have enough Republicans where at this point next week, one of two things will happen: Kevin McCarthy won’t be the speaker of the House or he’ll be the speaker of the House working at the pleasure of the Democrats,” Gaetz told reporters afterwards outside the Capitol.
McCarthy responded minutes later on social media: “Bring it on.”
Gaetz, who has clashed with McCarthy for months, soon retorted in a post: “Just did.”
The lawmaker’s move comes after the speaker brokered a last-minute deal with the Democrats to ensure the passage of a temporary spending bill to avert a government shutdown despite opposition from a hardcore group on the Republican right.
A faction of about 20 Republicans, including Gaetz, had forced McCarthy’s hand by repeatedly blocking other legislation.
Republicans control the chamber by a narrow 221-212 majority.
Some who have aligned with Gaetz on spending cuts or other priorities have said they will not back him in the effort to remove the speaker.
“It’s a really bad idea,” said Kentucky representative Thomas Massie.
But others are more keen.
Longtime McCarthy critic Bob Good, from Virginia, said the weekend deal with the Democrats to keep the government running without including any of the conservatives’ political priorities was just another reason for him to vote for the speaker’s removal.
“We got nothing,” he said on Monday.
‘Motion not likely to succeed’
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington DC, said the motion backed by the group of hardliner Republicans is a rarely seen move in the history of the US.
“It has only been used twice in the last century and never ever succeeded,” he said.
Hanna said the motion is not expected to succeed under the current structure of the House.
“The only way that Gates is likely to get this motion passed is if he gets the support of the Democrats which is exceedingly unlikely, given the relationship between the hard-lined Conservatives and Democrats within the House,” he added.
Gaetz has for months threatened to use a rare and strong procedural tool – called a motion to vacate – to try and remove McCarthy, who was only confirmed as speaker after 15 rounds of voting.
A motion to vacate is known as a privileged resolution, a designation that gives it priority over other measures.
The next step is for House leaders to schedule a vote on the resolution within two legislative days.
It would take a simple majority of the House – 218 votes, when no seats are vacant – to remove McCarthy from his post.
However, there are several procedural motions that members of either party could introduce to slow down or stop the process altogether.
No US House speaker has been removed from the position that is second in line in succession for the presidency after the vice president.