McConnell Advises Next House Speaker To Get Rid Of Motion To Vacate
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., conducts a news conference after the senate luncheon in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, October 4, 2023.
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voiced support on Wednesday for the House to get rid of the mechanism by which Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was removed as speaker.

The Kentucky Republican described the “motion to vacate” as being unproductive after a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats to oust McCarthy from his leadership role on Tuesday.

“I hope whoever the next speaker is gets rid of the motion to vacate. I think it makes the speaker’s job impossible, and the American people expect us to have a functioning government,” McConnell told reporters.

At least one House Republican, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), fired back at McConnell.

“Someone let [McConnell] know (or his comms director since that’s who is writing his tweets) we don’t take orders from the Senate and he should stay in his lane,” she said in a post to X.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed a “motion to vacate the chair” this week after the GOP-controlled House passed a short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown. Gaetz and seven other Republicans then voted with Democrats to remove McCarthy as speaker, citing frustrations with his leadership.

Lawmakers had changed the rule in 2019, as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) began her second stint as speaker, to do away with a one-member threshold in favor of requiring a majority of either party to bring a motion to vacate to the House floor after Republicans filed one against then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in 2015 before he eventually stepped down.

But the House rules package approved for this session of Congress, agreed upon in negotiations that originally secured McCarthy the speaker’s gavel after 15 rounds of voting in January, restored the ability of a single member to trigger the process that could lead to a no-confidence vote in the speaker.

McConnell released a statement on Tuesday night praising McCarthy and thanking the California Republican for his service as speaker.

“I am particularly grateful to the Speaker for our close working partnership. As Congressional Republicans continue the essential work begun during his tenure, Speaker McCarthy’s unapologetic patriotism and unshakeable optimism will remain a valuable guide,” McConnell said, in part.

Candidates are now stepping up to enter the race to become the next House speaker, a role which is currently being held in a temporary capacity by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC). A simple majority will be needed to secure victory.

So far, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) have announced candidacies.

There has also been some chatter about former President Donald Trump taking on the role, as the Constitution does not require a speaker to be a sitting member of the House, even while Trump is running a 2024 campaign for a second term in the White House.

While Democrats are likely to rally behind someone such as Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) for speaker, one House Republican said he would not support any candidate until there is a commitment to reform the motion to vacate.

“The coup against Speaker McCarthy was DESPICABLE & must never happen again. No one can govern effectively while being threatened by fringe hostage takers,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) said in a post to X.

Gaetz responded with a post that said, “So the way moderates want to punish me is by making it harder to remove Speaker Jordan or Speaker Scalise? OH NO! ANYTHING BUT THAT!!!!”

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