The insider newsletters are out with updates and vote counts on Matt Gaetz’s motion to vacate. The more detailed one is Punchbowl. It has Gaetz already holding four votes including his own to oust McCarthy. Three more lean toward ouster and another five are considering it. On its face this isn’t great for McCarthy. Gaetz needs just one more vote to oust McCarthy if every member is in attendance – a non-trivial if.
That ain’t great for McCarthy. But as we’ve discussed, we can’t see this as only a matter of the motion to vacate and remove McCarthy as Speaker. Without a new Speaker, the House freezes into a sequence of repeated votes like we saw back in January. The hardliners enjoy a very, very small hurdle to oust McCarthy. But to make it stick they must replace him. For that all the dynamics flip on their head. Now they need all but four members to unite around an alternative. That means getting the votes of scores of reps who are furious at Gaetz for forcing this latest crisis in the first place. It means convincing them all to hand him a historic victory.
This is possible with someone who is the functional equivalent of McCarthy, a nominally mainstream candidate. But that new Speaker is owned by Matt Gaetz. Everyone has to know that if Gaetz succeeds at this ouster his group’s power in the House rises dramatically. It’s this second hurdle that keeps me skeptical that this gambit succeeds.
Meanwhile, the one thing that seems clear from House Democrats is that they’re not going to freelance on this. So no handful of straggles cutting some independent deal. The decision all goes through Hakeem Jeffries. It still seems hard to imagine what concessions McCarthy could agree to give to Democrats without tainting every Republican who was party to it. But at this point anything might be possible.