Moderate US Republicans call for change to rule that eased McCarthy’s ouster

By Moira Warburton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A growing number of moderate Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday called for a change in the rule that allowed eight members of their 221-212 majority to join with Democrats in pushing out Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

During his grueling four-day, 15-vote fight for the gavel in January, McCarthy agreed to a rule change that allowed any one member of the House to call for his ouster – a threat that hardline Republican Representative Matt Gaetz carried out on Tuesday with what is called the “motion to vacate”.

Representative Garret Graves, a longtime McCarthy ally, called the current rule structure “completely dysfunctional”.

He pointed to “the number of great people that are in this conference that have said ‘Hell no, I wouldn’t even consider that job because it’s going to be a complete failure'” as a reason that the motion to vacate rule “needs to be addressed.”

The Republican Main Street Caucus, a group of over 70 moderates, described the current rule in a statement as “a chokehold,” adding that any speaker candidates “must explain to us how what happened on Tuesday will never happen again.”

The motion to vacate rule is enshrined in the U.S. House’s governing manual, but the specifics of it are left to each Congress to decide.

Before 2019, the motion to vacate was considered a privileged motion, which any one member could bring to the House floor.

But after two Republican speakers were threatened with and ultimately left office over the move, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed a rule change that required a majority of the conference to support a motion to vacate.

Republican hardliners expressed little interest on Wednesday in changing the rule back.

“We’re going to elect the kind of speaker that’s not going to feel threatened by that (the current rule),” Representative Bob Good, who voted to oust McCarthy, told reporters.

Representative Jim Jordan, who is running for speaker, said he would leave any rule change up to the conference.

But several Republican moderates are pushing for a change.

Representative Mark Amodei called the status quo “untenable,” adding that “we’ll be spinning the wheels here … every time someone decides they disagree with the speaker.”

Representative Mike Lawler said a change was “non-negotiable.”

(Reporting by Moira Warburton; editing by Grant McCool)