republican debate

What does a motion to vacate mean?

  • The House voted to advance motion to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy
  • A motion to vacate calls for speaker's removal; rare procedure
  • A speaker has never been ousted before

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is seen during a press conference following the passage of The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act on Thursday, April 20, 2023 about .

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(NewsNation) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership position faced significant jeopardy on Tuesday as the House voted to advance an initiative led by staunch Republican critics seeking to remove him from office.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Monday moved to force a vote on ousting McCarthy following through with his pledge to do so after the Speaker put a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government on the House floor. The motion Gaetz introduced is a privileged resolution, a designation giving it priority over other measures.

On Tuesday, 216 lawmakers voted in favor of removing the speaker.

What is a motion to vacate?

A motion to vacate, in the context of the U.S. House of Representatives, is a parliamentary procedure that can be initiated by a member of the House to call for the removal of the Speaker of the House from their position. It’s a rare and significant procedural move that, if successful, would result in the Speaker’s removal.

It’s important to note that a motion to vacate is a complex and challenging process, often requiring a majority vote in the House to succeed. It’s not a common occurrence, and the House has historically been reluctant to remove a Speaker through this method.

What happens to the position?

The vote results in the declaration of a vacancy in the Office of the Speaker. However, the declaration would not automatically trigger a new speaker election.

This is due to a succession list submitted by McCarthy to the House clerk in January, which has not been made public. In the event that McCarthy is removed from his position, the role of acting speaker pro tempore would be assumed temporarily.

Moments after McCarthy’s ousting, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., took the gavel and was named speaker pro tempore, to serve in the office until a new speaker is chosen.

Consequently, the election for a permanent speaker may be postponed until the House is ready to proceed with the process, according to NBC News.

What is the political context?

When McCarthy won the speakership, he agreed to compromises that diminished his influence, streamlined the process for lawmakers to remove him from his position and enhanced the role of the right-wing base in shaping legislation and determining committee assignments.

What are the potential consequences?

A motion to vacate can have significant implications for the House’s leadership and political dynamics. The bold attempt to challenge McCarthy’s leadership holds the potential for serious consequences, both if enough lawmakers support his removal from the position and if the effort ultimately fails.

Additionally, it highlights the deep divisions within the Republican majority, which have been a source of turmoil within the House and beyond throughout the year.

Are there historical precedents?

The House has not ousted a Speaker or conducted a floor vote for their removal in more than a century, with the last instance occurring in 1910 when Speaker Joseph G. Cannon, R-Ill., confronted an intraparty rebellion that, though unsuccessful, deepened divisions and ultimately contributed to a Democratic takeover, according to the Washington Post.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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