The war rages this week within the Republicans of the House of Representatives. An elected official from the American conservative right, Matt Gaetz, filed a motion on Monday, October 2, to dismiss the speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. An almost unprecedented event in the history of the United States. Le Figaro takes stock of this very rarely used procedural maneuver in American parliamentary history.
After three weeks of blockages and debates around the financing of American federal administrations, Congress finally voted on the budget on Saturday, September 30, late in the evening. Just three hours before the “shutdown” (when Congress cannot agree on a budget, which freezes the country's financing, Editor's note), the Senate, controlled by Democrats, adopted an emergency measure allowing funding to continue temporarily.
A few hours earlier, the House of Representatives had adopted the text which provides for this financing until November 17, the date on which a new budget will have to be revote. Failing to reach an agreement with the Republicans, Kevin McCarthy negotiated with the Democrats to pass temporary funding, and avoid blocking the country.
Several Republicans were in fact opposed to this vote. Matt Gaetz has been campaigning for several weeks, alongside other Trumpist elected officials, for drastic reductions in state spending. Particularly with regard to financial aid to Ukraine because they believe that this money should rather be used to fight the migration crisis on the border between the United States and Mexico.
If this aid to kyiv was excluded from the provisional budget voted to obtain a temporary agreement, it will return to the heart of the debates during the next vote at the end of November. Matt Gaetz also accused Kevin McCarthy of having concluded a “secret agreement” with President Joe Biden on a possible envelope for Ukraine, for this next financing project.
The elected representative of the conservative right therefore announced, in the wake of the vote on Sunday October 1 on CNN, that he had “fully intended to table a motion to dismiss President McCarthy this week”. The latter then reacted on X (ex-Twitter) “Go ahead!”, in a defiant tone.
Matt Gaetz finally filed his motion on Monday October 2. According to Nicole Bacharan, a political historian specializing in the United States, this young Republican elected official “is one of those “baby Trumps” who want to make a name for themselves by adopting extravagant and provocative positions.”
This motion aims to impeach the Speaker of the House of Representatives. It already existed in the law, but its use was very complicated. “It was practically impossible to obtain” the dismissal of the speaker because “the rules of the House are very demanding and complicated. The rules impose strong reasons for doing such an act. So there were a lot of steps and procedures to complete,” she continues. However, these rules made it possible to maintain a form of “stability” of the Chamber and to let elected officials “work”.
Its use was therefore “facilitated” upon the arrival of Kevin McCarthy at the head of the House last January, deciphers Nicole Bacharan, “at the request of other Republicans, in exchange for their votes”. His election was also long and not without twists and turns: “It took 15 rounds of voting for the Republicans to elect him due to a very narrow majority,” recalls Nicole Bacharan. To access the perch, a position he had dreamed of “for more than twenty years”, the 58-year-old man had to “give in on everything”, explains the historian.
The impeachment motion has only been used twice in the history of the United States. The first time dates back to 1910, when Joseph Cannon, politician from Illinois, himself presented this motion to force detractors of his own party to decide whether they supported him or not, mentions the British newspaper The Guardian. The motion ultimately failed, as the Republican majority largely voted for him to remain in office.
More recently in 2015, Republican Representative Mark Meadows, “who became Trump’s chief of staff,” filed a motion for impeachment against Republican speaker John Boehner, “a true conservative,” comments Nicole Bacharan. The motion was ultimately not voted on, but John Boehner ended up “resigning a few months later and leaving politics,” says the specialist.
“It will depend on the vote of the Democrats,” says Nicole Bacharan. “Even if McCarthy reached an agreement with them to pass temporary funding, the Democrats did not appreciate that he called for impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden,” she analyzes. “For them, McCarthy has crossed the red line, but at the same time, they are afraid of running into a successor worse than him,” counterbalances the historian.
The fate of Kevin McCarthy will also depend on the internal debate within the Republicans and “what he will still be ready to promise to the ultras of his party”, adds the specialist who considers the outcome of this imbroglio still uncertain.
The Republican speaker in the hot seat chose a rapid procedure. His fate will therefore be known “within 48 hours, following the vote of the elected representatives of the Chamber”, estimates Nicole Bacharan. The dismissal of Kevin McCarthy would immediately trigger the election of a new speaker, “which may take time,” judges the expert.