“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week. I think we need to rip off the band aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy,” Mr Gaetz told CNN.
“Look, the one thing everybody has in common is that nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy,” he added. “He lied to Biden, he lied to House conservatives. He had appropriators marking to a different number altogether. And the reason we were backed up against the shutdown politics is not a bug of the system. It’s a feature.”
Mr Gaetz, the leader of a dissident faction of Republicans who have opposed any short-term spending measures as well as long-term budgets that do not include spending cuts to their liking, led his holdouts to defeat this past week as Republicans, unable to cut a deal between members of their own party, cut a deal with Democrats to avoid them instead.
Now, the Florida congressman is vowing revenge and plans to force Mr McCarthy out of his seat unless Democrats decide to cut him a political favour and save him.
It was long the most likely outcome to result from the weeks-long battle over spending packages, and one that leaves the entire Republican caucus in troubled waters. The lower chamber still needs to pass full budget measures before a new shutdown deadline in November.
The Republican caucus fumed openly at those holdout conservatives on Saturday while Democats celebrated the collapse of GOP resistance.
“What we have seen is that no spending bills will happen without Democratic support,” Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters.
“We went from devastating cuts that would have impacted the health safety and economic well being of the American people and 24 hours [later] to a spending agreement that meets the needs of the American people across the board, entirely consistent with what Democrats have said from the very beginning,” he noted triumphantly.
Mr Gaetz faced further skepticism on Sunday from Tapper, who questioned what he had actually accomplished with his rebellion — at one point, he sarcastically quipped, “you ‘broke the fever’?”, quoting the congressman’s own words back to him.
In particular, the CNN host questioned why, in the final hours before a deadline to avert a shutdown, Mr Gaetz and others were offering legislation to cut the salaries of specific officials involved in the prosecution of Donald Trump at the Department of Justice.
“That to me is the language of somebody who is looking for clicks and likes and Fox hits,” Tapper accused.
Tapper: That to me is not the language of somebody who understands the balance of power and house in the senate and how all legislation actually functions. That to me is the language of somebody who is looking for clicks and likes and fox hits, pic.twitter.com/0ULAIFv4At
— Acyn (@Acyn) October 1, 2023
Mr McCarthy, meanwhile, dared Mr Gaetz to bring his motion to vacate, which had previously been discovered, drafted, by a reporter in a Capitol Hill bathroom, against him after GOP leadership gave up on negotiating with the far right.
“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it,” he said. “There has to be an adult in the room.”
Raju: You would vote to oust the speaker?
Boebert: That isn't what we're talking about right now.
Raju: Gaetz has said that—
Boebert: You all just quote Gaetz all the time. I’m not Matt Gaetz. My name is Lauren Boebert pic.twitter.com/geQiJxmzhY
— Acyn (@Acyn) September 30, 2023
Whether Mr Gaetz will be successful in his motion to discharge the Speaker is unclear. Some other holdout Republicans, like Tim Burchett, have expressed serious criticism of Mr McCarthy’s leadership but none are openly vowing to support Mr Gaetz’s motion just yet.
Lauren Boebert, questioned about the issue on Saturday, declined to answer.