For the first time in United States history, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has been removed from his position. Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the speakership by a vote of 216-210 after a member of his own party, Rep. Matt Gaetz, introduced a motion to vacate.
This move has been a long time coming for Gaetz and his faction of Make America Great Again Republicans in the House, starting with an adjustment to the rules surrounding the motion to vacate.
When Democrats held the House majority in 2019, the rules were modified to allow a motion to vacate to be introduced “only if offered at the direction of a party conference or caucus,” according to the Washington Examiner.
However, one of the many deals McCarthy had to make in his effort to attain the speakership was to allow for any one member of Congress to raise the motion, which appeased the MAGA Republicans.
Thus, the motion to vacate was held over McCarthy’s head for the entirety of his speakership. This, combined with the exhausting and pathetic manner in which McCarthy won the position of Speaker of the House, has proved him to be the weakest speaker in U.S. history.
It took 15 ballots to vote McCarthy into the speakership despite his party holding the majority in the House. Gaetz, Rep. Andy Biggs and Rep. Lauren Boebert were among the 21 Republicans who kept McCarthy from receiving the required 218 votes to win.
At one point, Gaetz even cast a vote for former President Donald Trump. The Constitution does not require the speaker to be a sitting member of Congress, but this was still an unprecedented move.
Gaetz and his fellow MAGA Republicans showed McCarthy early on the power they had over him, diminishing his ability to preside over the House from the moment he took the gavel, and the motion to vacate rule kept him in check to serve their political interests.
That is, until McCarthy decided to go against the wishes of the MAGA faction and work with the Democrats in the House to avoid a government shutdown.
McCarthy rushed a stopgap spending bill onto the floor of the House that would keep all government agencies open and funded at their current levels until mid-November. The bill, also known as a continuing resolution, passed thanks to Democratic support.
MAGA Republicans opposed the bill for its budget levels that mirrored those of House spending bills passed under last year’s Democrat majority.
“It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for, and it’s not the Republican conference,” Gaetz said according to the New York Times, adding that President Joe Biden takes McCarthy’s “lunch money in every negotiation.”
I respect McCarthy’s decision to put the interests of the U.S. above those of a small sect of his party. He put his position in jeopardy to, at least temporarily, prevent an economically-devastating government shutdown.
While McCarthy’s actions were noble, they did lead to his downfall. Gaetz filed his motion to vacate on Oct. 2, initiating a 48-hour window for the House to vote to oust him. The next afternoon, McCarthy was removed from the speakership, and Rep. Patrick McHenry was named the speaker pro tempore, or interim speaker.
What stands out the most about the speakership saga is Gaetz’s unprecedented and, quite frankly, dangerous behavior. His successful charge to remove McCarthy from the speakership sets a poor standard and threatens an even more unstable Congress than the 118th already has been.
Gaetz’s inability to compromise has made a mockery of the Republican party as a whole. Despite holding the majority in the House, Gaetz and his MAGA faction have hindered what should be easy decisions and rendered the party legislatively ineffective.
In the case of McCarthy’s bid for the speakership, Gaetz’s charge to delay McCarthy’s win weakened his authority over the House. While the Democrats unanimously supported minority leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Republicans couldn’t give McCarthy the same backing.
Furthermore, McCarthy’s choice to work with the Democrats did not constitute a motion to vacate. Gaetz raising that power due to a difference of opinion sets a scary precedent that could lead to representatives in the increasingly polarized Congress filing motions to vacate at the slightest inconvenience to their own agendas.
Representatives are elected to serve the best interests of their constituents and the country as a whole. Gaetz acts for his own personal interests, and his success on this occasion only encourages others to do the same.
If I were in Congress, I would file a motion to remove Gaetz from his seat. His actions threaten the democratic principles this country was founded on, and I fear that his presence will do more than shut down the government — it may shatter it.