House Republican legislators are currently embroiled in a heated dispute regarding the retention of the rule that enabled eight GOP members to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his role. This internal conflict has escalated tensions within the party, with various factions clashing over the direction of House leadership.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a contender for the speaker position, leads the charge and is open to letting fellow Republicans determine the rule change. He strongly opposes seeking assistance from Democrats, stating, "We'll decide as 222 Republicans whether to change it. That's the only way it happens — if the conference desires it."
The rule in question allows a single member to call for a vote to remove the speaker, known as a motion to vacate the chair. This rule enabled Rep. Matt Gaetz to successfully remove McCarthy from his position earlier this week. Now, House Republicans have the power to change the rule by raising the number of lawmakers required to force the vote.
This debate underscores divisions in the Republican Party. The moderate Republican Main Street Caucus, consisting of 70 members, insists that speaker candidates must suggest changes to the motion to vacate rule. Conversely, the ultra-right Freedom Caucus, including Gaetz and those who ousted McCarthy, supports keeping the rule unchanged. The Main Street Caucus voiced frustration, asserting that "personal politics should not override the wishes of 96% of House conservatives."
Various proposals have been put forward to address the issue. Rep. Garrett Graves of Louisiana suggested imposing penalties on individuals who file a motion to vacate without the support of the majority of the conference. Rep. Carlos Jimenez of Florida called for the reform of the motion to vacate so that what happened to McCarthy “NEVER happens again.” He proposed increasing the threshold to 50% of the Republican Conference and stated that a speaker should not govern under constant threat from “fringe hostage takers.”
On social media, Gaetz responded sarcastically to suggestions of punishment, claiming that making it harder to remove future speakers like Jordan or Rep. Steve Scalise would be no deterrent to him. Jimenez fired back, emphasizing the importance of doing what’s right and expressing relief that Gaetz would support raising the threshold to 50%.
Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, another lawmaker who voted against McCarthy, threw his support behind maintaining the one-lawmaker threshold for the motion to vacate. Good argued that they should not let someone like McCarthy, who would be “insecure” about the rule, dictate the conversation.
The decision ultimately lies in the hands of the new Congress, as they have the authority to determine their own rules. Prior to 2019, the motion to vacate was considered a privileged motion, giving one lawmaker the power to call for the vote. In 2019, when Rep. Nancy Pelosi became Speaker, a rule change was implemented that required the support of a majority of the chamber to call for the vote. McCarthy, in order to secure enough votes and win the gavel, had promised hardline conservatives like Gaetz that he would revert to the one-member threshold.
The battle over this rule is yet another sign of the internal turmoil within the Republican Party and the struggle for control and unity within its ranks. It remains to be seen whether the rule will be changed or if it will ultimately stay the same. As the party grapples with its future direction, these debates may have implications for the outcome of future leadership elections and the overall direction of the GOP.