Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Monday filed a motion to vacate Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as House Speaker, setting up a likely showdown vote in the lower chamber in the days ahead.
Mr. Gaetz is a member of the hardline conservative GOP faction that has, for months, warned Mr. McCarthy it would introduce a motion to vacate, a procedural tool, to attempt to oust Mr. McCarthy from his office if their concerns about specific items of government overspending were not acknowledged. Those threats escalated over the weekend after Mr. McCarthy relied on Democrats to provide the necessary votes to fund the government.
Announcing his motion, Mr. Gaetz said on the House floor that he was "declaring the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives to be vacant, and resolved that the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives is hereby declared to be vacant."
A motion to vacate is a rare and strong procedural tool that has only been used twice in the past century against Republican speakers.
On Sunday, the day after Congressional lawmakers averted a government shutdown, Mr. Gaetz pointed to the 45-day continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government as the reason for his move to vacate Mr. McCarthy's office.
Mr. Gaetz said on Sunday that since then, Mr. McCarthy "has been in brazen repeated material breach of that agreement."
"This agreement he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we had set up is a last straw," Mr. Gaetz said on Sunday.
The Florida representative also claimed that he had learned overnight that Mr. McCarthy "had a secret deal with Democrats on Ukraine."
Hours before filing his resolution to vacate the speaker's office, Mr. Gaetz demanded that Mr. McCarthy disclose the details of the supposed deal the speaker is accused of making with the White House to bring forward legislation to help fund the war in Ukraine during funding negotiations.
“It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for and it’s not the Republican Conference,” Mr. Gaetz said earlier.
Mr. McCarthy denied any such deal, telling reporters at the Capitol earlier in the day that there was "no side deal" on Ukraine and that he was "focused on doing the work that has to be done.” He added that he had not spoken with President Joe Biden.
On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to explain President Biden's remarks made over the weekend, which appeared to suggest that Democrats had reached a new deal with Mr. McCarthy on Ukraine.
When a reporter asked the president if he could trust Mr. McCarthy in future deal-making, President Biden responded: “We just made one about Ukraine. So, we'll find out.”
Ms. Jean-Pierre declined to delve into the specifics of what the president meant and refrained from commenting on Mr. Gaetz's remarks.
“When it relates to what the President said, I’m certainly not going to go beyond what he said,” Ms. Jean-Pierre added. “What we know is that there’s bipartisan support for this deal. Again, Speaker McCarthy was on the air multiple times yesterday saying that he wants to—he certainly wants to continue support for Ukraine to get the weapons that they need.”