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Gaetz threatens motion to vacate McCarthy, demands answers on alleged Ukraine deal

United State capitol in Washington, D.C. © iStock - Muni Yogeshwaran
Casey Harper

(The Center Square) – U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy worked with Democrats to fund the government with just hours to spare Saturday, but that move may cost him his role as speaker.

Now, Congress has bought itself about 45 more days to once again fund the government or face a shutdown, but possibly replacing a House speaker in that time would dramatically complicate that effort.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who has been McCarthy's most outspoken critic, said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that he will file a motion to vacate McCarthy this week. Gaetz and some other Republicans have been adamant about no longer passing short-term spending resolutions and returning to the traditional method of passing a budget via 12 separate appropriations bills.

"I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid," Gaetz said. "I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy."

However, Gaetz said before the motion on Monday that he wanted answers from McCarthy concerning an alleged "secret side deal on Ukraine" the Speaker made with President Joe Biden.

"I rise to raise a question," Gaetz said from the House floor Monday. "What was the secret side deal on Ukraine? House Democrats and President Biden have said that as Speaker McCarthy was asking Republicans to vote for a Continuing Resolution to take up the plus-up Ukraine money, that the Speaker of the House was actually cutting a side deal to bring Ukraine legislation to this floor with President Biden and House Democrats."

Gaetz went on to suggest those answers could help rally support for his anti-McCarthy effort.

"There may be other votes coming today or later this week that could be implicated by the answers to these questions," Gaetz continued. "Members of the Republican party might vote differently on a motion to vacate and if they heard what the Speaker had to share with us about his secret side deal with Joe Biden on Ukraine. I'll be listening. Stay tuned."

McCarthy was narrowly elected as Speaker after more than a dozen votes as several conservative House Republicans held out, demanding concessions from leadership. One of those concessions was that a single disgruntled member could file a motion to remove McCarthy as Speaker.

McCarthy has managed to avoid that motion so far, but the near shutdown of the government drew even more scrutiny of the Speaker and at least one Republican threatening to file the motion to remove McCarthy.

Friday, McCarthy put forward a Continuing Resolution that cut spending, bolstered the border and kept the government open for another 30 days. A cadre of more than 20 Republicans voted against the measure, effectively killing it since no Democrats would support the spending cuts and border policies. The failure of that attempt raised concerns that the government would in fact partially shut down at midnight Sunday morning.

But McCarthy called lawmakers back to work Saturday and passed a bipartisan "clean" 45-day extension, meaning current spending levels were extended with some funding for disaster relief. The Senate quickly approved the measure and Biden signed it just before midnight.

Notably, that measure omitted more funding for Ukraine in its war against the Russian invasion, a war that Republicans have become increasingly less willing to fund.

After Gaetz's ongoing opposition to McCarthy, some Republicans have discussed trying to oust him from his position. Gaetz is currently being probed by the ethics committee, and the findings of that inquiry could theoretically drum up the 2/3 support needed to oust a sitting lawmaker. The probe reportedly centers around allegations of public corruption, sexual misconduct and drug use.

Gaetz fired back in a fundraising post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday afternoon.

"They want to expel me from Congress for holding [Speaker McCarthy] to his own word," Gaetz said. "They want me gone so they can spend your money and destroy our country without a battle. Help me fight back. Every little bit counts. Join my team. Fight with me."