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Speaker McCarthy Loses Nothing by Restoring Longstanding Rule on Motion to Vacate

On the 15th vote, the United States House of Representatives finally elected California Congressman Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. The House can finally get down to business, following three days of inaction caused by a fringe minority of selfish radical Republicans.

One of the radicals’ demands to which McCarthy acceded to win (and weaken) the Speakership is to allow a single member to call a vote on removing the Speaker. Allowing a single member to move to vacate the chair is no innovation; it is a return to 200-plus-year-old practice that stood until 2019, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi imposed a rule that a majority of either party had to agree to allow such a motion to be considered. The motion appears to have been made twice in all the history of Congress:

  1. In 2015, Congressman Mark Meadows moved to remove Speaker John Boehner. The motion never came to a vote; Boehner resigned from the Speakership.
  2. In 1910, Democrats use the motion to try removing Republican Speaker Joseph Cannon. Cannon himself asked for that vote, knowing his fellow Republicans would not support the motion, to save face after Democrats and Progressive Republicans led by Nebraska’s George Norris had rebelled against Cannon’s control and stripped the Speaker of numerous powers.

In over 200 years, the motion to vacate the Speakership has been made twice, voted on once, and passed never.

So I have to ask McCarthy and the wingnuts and everyone else why reverting this House rule to the form found in Thomas Jefferson’s original manual for parliamentary procedure constitutes a major concession or any sort of real weakening of the Speaker’s power. Let the fringe lunatics who resisted McCarthy’s assumption of the gavel never secured more than 20 votes. A motion to vacate from Gaetz, Boebert, et al., motivated by the same mere monkeywrench grandstanding that brought us this week’s stalemate, will never win a majority of votes from McCarthy’s fellow Republicans, who are really mad at the troublemakers for pooping on their welcome-to-majority parade. And while Democrats had little reason to stand in the way of the Republicans’ demonstration of their dilatory divisiveness this week, they have no reason to vote to remove the Speaker just because Gaetz or Greene says they should. In this Congress, Democrats (and the country) would only stand to gain from removing Speaker McCarthy if the motion was coming from moderate Republicans willing to break ranks and vote for Minority Leader Hakeen Jeffries for Speaker, and that’s never going to happen.

At worst, the motion to vacate gives the Republican Party’s chaos caucus just one more tool to briefly delay action on meaningful legislation. Let Lauren Boebert stand up every week and move to vacate the chair. A smart speaker will allow the motion to proceed through debate once, win the vote, and then every time the motion is renewed, line up allies to move the previous question and immediately dispose of the dilatory motion with a majority negative vote. Votes to remove the Speaker will go nowhere fast, and the chaos caucus will tire of burning its capital on such an embarrassingly ineffective ploy.

One Representative can call for the Speaker’s removal—big deal. Speaker McCarthy can let the fringe radicals in his party move and squawk all they want: they failed to rally even a tenth of their own party to oppose his ascent, and barring profound scandal, they’ll never rally the mainstream of a party they’ve effectively alienated this week to depose the Speaker on their selfish whims.


  1. Richard Schriever 2023-01-07 10:13

    In over 200 years, no political party’s majority of elected congress-members have participated ina plot to overthrow the US government. Oh, wait. That did happen, once. It included individuals that make up a majority of that party’s current membership in Congress. But, what the heck. They didn’t succeed, so nothing to worry about from them – right??

  2. Donald Pay 2023-01-07 11:46

    Richard tells the truth. The focus is often on “the fringe,” which, it turns out, is just a few months or weeks ahead of the thinking of the majority of the Republican Party. Look at how the majority of that party wrote Trump off when he descended the escalator and started sputtering outrageous nonsense. What happened? They followed him into the worst Presidency of our history, which almost ended in an overthrow of the government. We can’t depend on the good sense of historical majorities to save us from the current Republican majority.

  3. All Mammal 2023-01-07 12:48

    Mr. Kurtz- with POTUS traveling to Mexico, where upheaval is still fresh from El Chapo’s son’s violent arrest, your scenario of second go by the avarice-driven dbag republican faction to overthrow our democracy is forming an intensifying sense of dread. I hope you are wrong about another radical coup attempt…

    Just like with the confederates, we should never have let the January 6th traitors taste freedom within our borders, let alone resume eligibility to run for office. We had two deadly lessons to learn from. We won’t walk away after a third.

    It wouldn’t hurt to mind the mafia axioms: If you must hurt a man, do it so brutally that you need not fear his revenge. And, after a victory, sharpen your knife.

    These fools never stopped plotting.

  4. cibvet 2023-01-07 13:08

    These fools have tasted power and now when the debt ceiling needs to be raised or a budget passed to keep the government operational, you will find how much this country has lost. We lost 4 years under trump as he would have given Ukraine to Russia and now these morons will do it for him.

  5. Mark Anderson 2023-01-07 13:41

    Hey, the grifters raised cash, McCarthy was elected. Alls well in MAGA America. Bring on Hunter and Fauci. Damn the IRS.

  6. grudznick 2023-01-07 13:44

    The raggedy fringe needs to remember it is only held in place by the strength of the fabric of the entire cloth. The cloth can still function without a silly fringe.

    These are lessons the legislatures need to know as well.

  7. Donald Pay 2023-01-07 13:57

    That’s a nice thought, Grudz, but I don’t think it is that true. If the cloth can function without a fringe, why can’t the party just discard the fringe, and save itself all the hassle? Because it would lose elections and thus lose power. Maybe not in South Dakota, but it would doom itself nationawide. We’ve seen how dependent McCarthy was on the fringe. Without the loonies, he’s permanent minority leader.

  8. grudznick 2023-01-07 14:12

    The fringe is pretty, Mr. Pay. Just look at Ms. Taffy and Mr. Aylward. Very pretty.

    And there are some ignorant in the electorate who are superficial and ignorantly ignorant. Maybe even unintelligent. I realize you are from Wisconsin, but if you lived in the District Numbered 30 here, you’d understand.

  9. Richard Schriever 2023-01-07 17:23

    Donald Pay – I beg to differ as to the worst President ever. IMO that would be Ronald Reagan. He did FAR more damage to American culture and political norms. AND, he had 2 full trems to implement his f***ery. He is also the president whose anti-government governance utlimately led to the election of the nation hater Trump. When Reagan came to office 60% of the US population was considered “middle class”. Today that numebr is LESS to HAL and that’s not because so many moved UP. trump is an ass – but he was not succfessful or skilled enough in his endeavors to do near the damage that Reagan did.

  10. All Mammal 2023-01-07 17:30

    Back when McCarthy was gifted a fake gavel and he responded with how he hoped to take the real one away from (Speaker) Pelosi and thump her with it, he defended himself when some people spoke out against his comment. McCarthy complained by saying how jeeeez he was only joking, lighten up.

    Not a word out of his sick, twisted mouth after Mr. Pelosi actually was clobbered by a McCarthyette with a real hammer. It is so appalling. I’m not easily appalled.

    I can’t imagine politicians behaving so putridly and still winning votes when my dad was alive. I’ll never forget the time I tried turning on the TV while visiting him and he stopped me because he could no longer stomach all the violence on every channel. I never thought twice about how sick our entertainment is until he said that. It surprised me too because he wasn’t really a dove sort. Now that I am a little older and more wise, I see how that made my dad more manly. Bullies are puny wimps.

    Back in McCarthy’s Bakersfield district two days ago, two doofuses followed their representative’s violent example by trying to burn down an immigration services building. They totally lit themselves up in flames. Ha!

    On another note, does the Jan 6th Committee’s accidental leak of 2,000 social security numbers, including Gov. Noem and her family’s, reek of Putin’s cyber warfare tactics? Seems suspish.

  11. Mark Anderson 2023-01-07 18:10

    You know Donald Pay, you are right about the fringe. The Republican party has allowed every fringe into the party it can. They need the numbers. It’s worse than herding cats. It should be a fun two years and the Republican party will continue to be a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I was hoping that Richard Hudson hadn’t pulled away Mike Rodgers from slamming Matt Gaetz. That would have been great and also very illegal. May have derailed Kevin McCarthy until Monday if not forever.

  12. grudznick 2023-01-08 00:02

    Nobody has disagreed with grudznick here, as is common. Some fear the public embarrassment of being bested in the debates by grudznick. Few dare even venture into those grounds. Most just know that what grudznick says is the hard reality.

  13. All Mammal 2023-01-08 01:13

    Oh, Mr. ‘Znicky! I couldn’t speak illy of the fringe while rocking the skán on my bike handlebars. However, I can’t leave ya hanging unopposed when you so yearn for a good old comeback. My personal favorite goes like: ‘This is a January and February conversation…. so why don’t you March your way out of it.’
    I kid. I kid.

    Fringes, patches, knotted shirttails, however you rock your red white and blue cloth, Mr. G. As long as it’s indivisible, it’s all smashin’ fashion.

  14. leslie 2023-01-08 01:18

    Every time I take you on i take you down.

    maybe i’ll waste some more time on your tripe.

  15. Vi Kingman 2023-01-08 11:10

    I agree with you Cory but I think the point is how much McCarthy gave up to get the Speaker position.
    McCarthy has no spine or no soul. He sold his soul to get what he desperately wanted.
    The next two years are going to be a joke and nothing will get done except phony investigations.

  16. 96Tears 2023-01-08 11:25

    I recommend reading former GOP Speaker John Boehner’s book, “On the House,” for a number of reasons. Considering the ridiculousness of the past week, it’s worth reading to see how things used to operate in a Republican-run House. Boehner was vexed by “the crazies,” and yet found a way to keep the bottom from dropping out. Then, as now, the extreme right wing tumor was developing its control of the entire Congress with procedural stunts and hateful rhetoric. Boehner came out of the old school Republican network in D.C. where members of Congress could slug it out in the Capitol but have a highball or two with opponents after hours. Since Boehner left the House, the crazies are transformed into full-blown vicious fascists, aided by the hate culture Donald Trump and his enablers brought to D.C. As we saw this past week, they take themselves very seriously and have learned that about 20 members is all they need to sabotage governing by leading the weak-kneed Kevin McCarthy around like a fat sow in a show ring. They got everything they wanted not only from McCarthy, but also the rest of the dummies in the GOP House caucus, spineless pukes like South Dakota’s Dusty Johnson.

    This is what bothered me while watching the freak show day after day. The Republicans captured the House by a very slim margin in the 2022 election, yet, this was their opportunity to shine with the new session’s first floor action. It was a display of collapse and failure which I found embarrassing to watch. For that, I don’t blame the Matt Gaetzes, Jim Jordans and Scott Perrys in Washington. What the hell happened to the 90 percent of the GOP caucus? How did they suddenly become helpless to the guys wearing the bomb vests? This was their moment to shine without Donald Trump in the room, and they blew it. They set McCarthy and themselves up for a disastrous two years by handing the steering wheel to the noisy backseat drivers.

    Extreme dysfunction by design.

  17. leslie 2023-01-08 13:24

    96, no offense, but Boehner was easily as obstructionist as McConnell.

    Same ilk as William Barr. Rank partisans. Despite duties.

    And “Highball or two”. That’s funny.

  18. Mark Anderson 2023-01-09 08:55

    Grudz do you type in front of a mirror?

  19. P. Aitch 2023-01-10 18:11

    MAGA’S are the REAL victims, now? Trump really spoiled these snowflakes, didn’t he? Heh heh HO 😂
    House Republicans created a new committee to investigate law enforcement and other federal agencies for evidence of bias against conservatives.
    Tuesday, January 10, 2023 6:36 PM ET – NYTimes

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