Speaker Johnson: ‘There will probably be a change’ to motion to vacate next Congress


WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday predicted that the House will “probably” change the rules around the motion to vacate in the next Congress, months after eight Republicans banded with Democrats to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) using the procedural maneuver.

Johnson — speaking at a kickoff press conference during the House GOP’s annual retreat in West Virginia — said he is not personally advocating for a change to the motion to vacate, but added it’s being openly discussed among lawmakers.

“The motion to vacate is something that comes up a lot amongst members and discussion. … I expect there will probably be a change to that as well. But just so you know, I’ve never advocated for that; I’m not one who’s making it into this issue, because I don’t think it is one for now,” Johnson said.

“I just think it’s something that a lot of members on both sides of the aisle talk about openly that they have a desire for [a] more normal process on the House floor again,” he continued. “So we’ll be looking at that on the House rules package in our respective caucus and conference packages as well as going to the new Congress. And that’s just something we should do in due course, be good stewards of the institution.”

Under current rules, a single member can bring a motion to vacate against the Speaker, which forces a vote on ousting the lawmaker from the top job.

McCarthy agreed to the one-member threshold during the Speaker’s race in January of last year after hard-line conservatives demanded it as a condition of their support. During Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) tenure as Speaker, a motion to vacate could only be brought if a majority of either party was in support.

That concession, however, marked the beginning of the end of McCarthy’s Speakership: Just nine months later, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) forced a vote on removing the California Republican, which was successful after seven other GOP lawmakers and all House Democrats joined him in supporting the effort.

The historic vote sparked three weeks of chaos in the GOP conference, paused legislative business on the floor and, in the end, left Johnson with the Speaker’s gavel after Republicans rejected three other Speaker candidates.

Johnson’s prediction comes as the Speaker is facing heat from the right flank of the party regarding his handling of spending issues. Johnson has cut a number of funding deals with Democrats — including a handful of continuing resolutions — angering conservatives who have been pushing for deep spending cuts and controversial policy riders.

And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has floated moving on a motion to vacate if Johnson brings aid for Ukraine to the floor.

Hard-liners, however, say they are not ready — at least for now — to trigger a vote on ousting Johnson.

“I have never wanted to go down that road. I didn’t want to go down that road with Kevin, I don’t want to go down that road with Mike. But you are correct, it is a tool at our disposal,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said last week.

Changing the rules surrounding the motion to vacate was discussed during the three-week stalemate following McCarthy’s ouster. A group of 45 House GOP lawmakers — which is just more than one-fifth of the conference — signed on to a letter calling for changes to the rule.

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