Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has urged House Republicans to ditch a rule that led to the stunning downfall of Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership, warning it would make any future speaker’s job “impossible.”
“I have no advice to give to House Republicans, except one: I hope whoever the next speaker is gets rid of the motion to vacate,” McConnell said Wednesday at a weekly press conference.
“To do that job, for anyone, you have to get rid of the motion to vacate because it puts whoever the speaker is in a hammerlock of dysfunction, potential dysfunction,” he added.
The “motion to vacate the chair” is a rarely used procedural tool that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) utilized earlier this week, leading to McCarthy’s ouster as speaker — a first in American history.
McCarthy won the House’s top job in January partly by agreeing to lower the threshold required to set the procedure in motion, a demand of hard-line conservatives. As a result, a single lawmaker could trigger a snap no-confidence vote in his speakership. Ironically, it’s that very same change that led to his undoing on Tuesday.
Now, many rank-and-file House Republicans are calling to raise this threshold as part of the next speaker election, which is expected to take place next week. On Wednesday, the 68-member Main Street Caucus declared that any speaker candidate “must explain to us how what happened on Tuesday will never happen again.”
“No speaker should have this proverbial gun to their head when trying to do the right thing by the American people, especially in a divided government,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), a member of the group, told HuffPost.
It will be difficult to change the rules, however, considering that the next speaker will likely need votes from some of the same Republicans who used the rules to depose McCarthy. Eight Republicans joined Democrats in support of the motion to vacate, drawing widespread exasperation from their GOP colleagues.
“They have pissed off everybody in the conference, and I don’t think people are going to be in too much of a mood to give a damn what they think at this point,” Lawler said of the Gaetz faction.
Many Republicans are also angry with House Democrats for not throwing McCarthy a lifeline by simply voting “present,” a move that could have lowered the majority threshold for the no-confidence vote and allowed him to survive. McCarthy and his allies had argued that Democrats would preserve the institution of the House by helping avoid an unprecedented ouster and potentially opening the door to a GOP speaker they may like even less.
But Democrats saw no reason to bail out someone who coddled those on the hard right — including Donald Trump mere days after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection that aimed to keep him in the White House — and empowered the most extreme members of the GOP caucus, while also making no appeals or gestures to Democrats in exchange for their support.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he didn’t fault Democrats for not giving McCarthy a helping hand this week.
“Speaker McCarthy made a decision to get as close as he possibly could to the radical wing of his party, and by doing that he made it virtually impossible for the Democrats to come to his aid,” Romney told HuffPost.
Arthur Delaney contributed.