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Republican Matt Gaetz files bid to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy


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Matt Gaetz and fellow Republican, Kevin McCarthy

A US congressman has launched a bid to remove House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Matt Gaetz, a right-wing lawmaker from Florida, filed his motion late on Monday to oust the Republican leader in the lower chamber of Congress.

Tensions between the two Republicans boiled over at the weekend after the Speaker passed a bill with the help of Democrats to fund government agencies.

No US Speaker has ever been ousted through a motion to vacate.

Responding to Mr Gaetz’s motion to vacate, Mr McCarthy posted online: “Bring it on.”

The leadership has two days to bring up this measure for a vote.

The Speaker is second in the line of succession for the presidency after the US vice-president. He or she sets the House’s legislative priorities, controls committee assignments, and can make or break an American president’s agenda.

The deal that averted a government shutdown left out additional money for Ukraine because Mr Gaetz and other ultraconservatives insist the US is spending too much funding the country’s war with Russia.

Mr McCarthy only became Speaker in January after 15 rounds of voting when he was able to win over a key group of right-wing Republicans.

Mr Gaetz was one of the Republicans who repeatedly voted against Mr McCarthy – and even until the end the Florida lawmaker abstained from voting along with five others.

During the horse-trading before he ultimately won the gavel, Mr McCarthy agreed to a change of rules that allowed any single lawmaker member to call for a vote to oust the Speaker.

That paved the way to Monday’s motion to vacate.

In a speech on the House floor, Mr Gaetz said Mr McCarthy must disclose the details of a deal he made with the White House to bring new Ukraine funding to a vote in separate legislation soon.

Mr McCarthy has said there is “no side deal on Ukraine”, adding that he does “not know who is bringing that up”.

Mr Gaetz had already threatened to file the motion in recent weeks, saying he would do so if a short-term government spending bill was passed with help from Democrats.

“It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for and it’s not the Republican Conference,” Mr Gaetz said in a speech, before filing the resolution on Monday.

Mr Gaetz has not proposed a replacement leader of his party for the chamber.

Now Democrats must decide if they will step in and vote to help the Speaker keep his position or not.

Democrats are unhappy with Mr McCarthy after he recently approved the launch of a congressional inquiry to see if there is enough evidence to impeach President Joe Biden.

Left-wing New York lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told CNN on Sunday her fellow Democrats might be interested in politically bailing out Mr McCarthy if they can extract some concessions from him.

The rare procedural tool to remove a Speaker has only been used twice in the past century and never successfully.

It was last used in 2015 against Speaker John Boehner. The motion to remove him failed but it built enough pressure on Mr Boehner that, unable to unite his caucus, he announced his resignation two months later.

Though it is not clear if the challenge will success, Mr Gaetz has struck an uncompromising tone.

Earlier this month, he told reporters: “If we have to begin every single day in Congress with the prayer, the pledge and the motion to vacate – then so be it.”

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