Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz moves to unseat House Speaker McCarthy | Courthouse News Service
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Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz moves to unseat House Speaker McCarthy

The once-in-a-century move comes days after the Republican House speaker negotiated a deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.

WASHINGTON (CN) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces a historic challenge to his leadership from within his own party, as one of his biggest GOP critics moved Monday to strip him of his position.

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz was behind the gambit to unseat McCarthy, unveiled on the House floor Monday evening. 

Gaetz has long been critical of the speaker, but his rhetoric against his party’s chief lawmaker ratcheted up in recent days as McCarthy sparred with some of his caucus’ more radical members over federal spending.

The Florida congressman said Sunday that he was planning to file a motion to vacate the speakership.

Gaetz has said that McCarthy reneged on several promises he made to right-wing Republicans as he sought their support for the speakership — a position that took the California congressman 15 floor votes to achieve. As part of that deal, McCarthy reportedly agreed that any member of Congress could bring forward a motion to vacate should they be dissatisfied with the future speaker’s performance.

McCarthy has so far exuded confidence about his future as House speaker, telling reporters Monday that he didn’t think the effort was “good for the House.”

Some House Republicans are expected to sign onto Gaetz’s motion to vacate, but not enough to unseat McCarthy without help from House Democrats — few of whom have signaled so far whether they would back Gaetz or the speaker.

McCarthy refused to say Monday whether he would seek Democrats’ help.

Gaetz’s motion is the culmination of months of Republican infighting, as the party’s right flank battles McCarthy and moderates on how the GOP should leverage its razor-thin House majority. Tensions flared over the weekend, as the speaker abandoned caucus members demanding drastic spending cuts and other concessions in exchange for a short-term budget patch aimed at averting a government shutdown.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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