Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) teased his upcoming move to force a vote on ousting Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a floor speech Monday shortly after the House gaveled into session — but he reiterated that the effort will kick off this week.
“Stay tuned,” he said in a speech on the House floor.
Gaetz said over the weekend that he will move to force a vote on booting McCarthy from the Speakership this week after the GOP leader worked with Democrats to pass a continuing resolution (CR) and avert a government shutdown over the weekend — a course of action that Gaetz had opposed for weeks.
Gaetz focused his speech on what he alleged was a “secret side deal” between McCarthy and President Biden about approving Ukraine funding in the future. The “clean” stopgap funding bill Congress approved just hours before a Saturday shutdown deadline did not include the White House’s requested boost to Ukraine aid by billions.
“For all the crocodile tears about what may happen later this week about a motion to vacate, working with the Democrats is a yellow brick road that has been paved by Speaker McCarthy, whether it was the debt limit deal, the CR or now the secret deal on Ukraine,” Gaetz said on the House floor. “This is swampy log-rolling.”
Biden alluded Sunday to the existence of a deal to bring up Ukraine funding. When asked by a reporter if he will be able to trust McCarthy when the next deal comes around, Biden responded “we just made one about Ukraine, so we’ll find out.”
“I fully expect the Speaker to keep his commitment for the secure passage and support needed to help Ukraine as they defend themselves against aggression and brutality,” Biden also said in remarks Sunday.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday pointed to comments McCarthy made over the weekend that he supports getting Ukraine the weapons it needs, adding “that is a commitment that he has made.” She also said “what we know is there’s bipartisan support for this deal.”
But McCarthy said otherwise.
“I don’t think the president implied that at all,” McCarthy told reporters Monday morning.
He said that he supports Ukraine and he supports arming Ukraine, but he has asked the White House to send people to the Capitol to talk about the southern border.
“The American border takes priority,” McCarthy said.
But Gaetz still laid out a series of questions for McCarthy to answer regarding the supposed deal on Ukraine funding.
“So Mr. Speaker, just tell us, just tell us. What was in the secret Ukraine side deal? What commitments were made to President Biden to continue the spending of President Biden in exchange for doing things for President Biden?” Gaetz said. “It is becoming increasingly clear who the Speaker of the House already works for, and it’s not the Republican conference.”
“Mr. Speaker, I would ask that these questions be answered sooner, because there may be other votes coming today or later this week that could be implicated by the answers to these questions,” he continued. “Members of the Republican Party might vote differently on a motion to vacate if they heard what the Speaker had to share with us about his secret side deal with Joe Biden on Ukraine.”
Gaetz added, “I’ll be listening.”
Gaetz also criticized McCarthy for comments over the weekend suggesting that Ukraine aid and border security would be considered together.
“Could we at least agree that no matter how you feel about Ukraine or the southern border, they each deserve the dignity of their own consideration and should not be rolled together.”
Gaetz did not say Monday when he will make an official move against McCarthy — just saying it would be this week — but he signaled that if the first effort fails, he will force more votes on the question of whether or not the Californian should remain the top Republican in the chamber.
“It took Speaker McCarthy 15 votes to become the Speaker. So until I get to 14 or 15, I don’t think I’m being any more dilatory than he was,” Gaetz told reporters on the steps of the Capitol following his floor speech.
Gaetz also said that he had spoken to former President Trump about his plans to move against McCarthy, but declined to elaborate further.
Asked about who he would like to see replace McCarthy, Gaetz did not push a specific name — but he did bring up House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who has been undergoing treatment for blood cancer.
“It is awkward to talk about names until we understand how Mr. Scalise comes out of his treatment for blood cancer,” Gaetz said. “I am not the type of person that just says you blow by somebody because they’re getting a medical treatment.”
Brett Samuels contributed.