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Matt Gaetz teases effort to oust Kevin McCarthy, accuses him of making "secret side deal" with Biden

Washington — Far-right Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida demanded answers about an alleged "secret side deal" between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden on Ukraine funding as he teased a potential no-confidence vote in the Republican leader later this week.

"It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for and it's not the Republican conference," Gaetz said on the House floor Monday. 

After Congress passed a short-term funding bill on Saturday to avert a government shutdown that did not include any aid for Ukraine, Mr. Biden told reporters Sunday that McCarthy made a "commitment to secure the passage and support needed to help Ukraine." Gaetz is vehemently opposed to the U.S. providing more aid to Ukraine. 

"To extend Joe Biden's spending and Joe Biden's policy priorities, the Speaker of the House gave away to Joe Biden the money for Ukraine that Joe Biden wanted," Gaetz said Monday. "It is going to be difficult for my Republican friends to keep calling President Biden feeble, while he continues to take Speaker McCarthy's lunch money in every negotiation." 

McCarthy To Face Far-Right Attempt To Oust Him As House Speaker
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, speaks to members of the media outside the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 2, 2023.  Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amid negotiations to avoid a shutdown, Gaetz warned McCarthy that if he relied on Democrats to pass a short-term spending bill, Gaetz would introduce a motion to vacate, which could oust the California Republican from the speakership. The stopgap funding measure ultimately had more Democrats supporting it than Republicans. 

"So 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 [continuing resolution] or now the secret deal on Ukraine," Gaetz said Monday. 

Gaetz said McCarthy needs to provide more information on what was in the "secret" deal because whether members vote to oust McCarthy or not depends on it. 

"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. I'll be listening. Stay tuned," Gaetz said. 

Later Monday, McCarthy denied that he made a deal on Ukraine funding. 

"There is no side deal going on," McCarthy told reporters.

McCarthy said Sunday he was confident he will keep his job. 

"I'll survive," McCarthy told "Face the Nation." "Let's get over with it. Let's start governing. If he's upset because he tried to push us into a shutdown and I made sure government didn't shut down, then let's have that talk." 

McCarthy only has a slim majority, and a simple majority is needed to oust him as speaker — meaning he would likely have to rely on Democratic votes to stay in power, although Democrats could take other options that would keep him in power without having to vote directly for him.

House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark told members in an email on Sunday that the caucus would have a "discussion on how to address the motion to best meet the needs of the American people" if a motion to vacate is introduced. She asked Democrats to keep their schedules flexible so that they can be present for any related votes.  

Gaetz told reporters Monday he would keep trying to oust McCarthy if the first vote fails.

"It took Speaker McCarthy 15 votes to become the speaker," Gaetz said, referring to the long path McCarthy took in January to become speaker. "So until I get to 14 or 15, I don't think I'm being any more dilatory than he was." 

Ellis Kim and Scott MacFarlane contributed reporting. 

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