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The Motion to Vacate: A Source of Turmoil

As a young Canadian, I always felt the United States was the best country in the world. With the United States as an example for other countries to follow, American politicians have a responsibility to uphold those respected values. I always felt the political institutions were the strongest, the most unified and resilient ones on the planet. I am not sure anymore. Witnessing the never-ending election of Kevin McCarthy only to be ousted a few months later and now, just a few months later, the position is on the line once more with his successor facing threats the Americans are losing control of their democratic institution. 


Democratic Yet Chaotic Motion

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene threatened to oust Speaker Johnson because he dealt with the Democrats to pass a bill funding Ukraine aid. From her perspective, it was against American interests. Back in October, it was Matt Gaetz who used the motion vacate to oust Speaker McCarthy. 


Despite its uses now, the motion to vacate was established for democratic purposes. It was adopted to allow any representative to force a vote to oust the Speaker if they believed the latter had behaved contrary to the best interests of the House or the American people.” It is too broad of a justification. It can be interpreted in many ways, from treason to a refusal of the Speaker to bring a specific bill to the House floor.


The House needs to draw a line between the interests of the House or the American people and the personal interests of the private sector and the members of the House.  The interests of the people are a broad category and any representative, as a representative of the people, can claim a bill they voted against is against the broader American interest.


However, the bill Taylor Greene used as an argument to remove Johnson passed the House with a majority and avoided a government shutdown. I can understand that from a more conservative perspective, it may not be in their interest to fund a war outside the country, but a government shutdown would certainly have been worse for the people and the House’s reputation. 

Moreover, it was not a Democrat deal that Johnson was forced to bring to a vote, it was a compromise between most representatives of both parties.


Public Trust

With that example, we also need to consider the public approval of Congress which includes the House of Representatives. 72% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Congress and more than 50% of Americans believe Congress does not “care about the people they represent” and does not do a “good job promoting laws that serve the public interest.” The main critiques towards elected officials are they are not focused on people or the right issues, they have bad character traits, they are too partisan and lack compromise.


Voting to oust the Speaker on the basis that a few representatives were against a majority-supported bill is a pure representation of the critiques from the American people to their politicians.


The Necessity of the Majority

McCarthy recently commented on Gaetz's motion and stated “a member of Congress wanted him to stop an ethics complaint against [them] because he slept with a 17-year-old,” clearly pointing to Matt Gaetz’s scandal. 


Even with the reform’s addition in 2018, McCarthy would have been ousted. It was not surprising that the majority of the Democrats had voted to kick McCarthy out of the Speaker’s chair. The small group of GOP representatives, the House Freedom Caucus, combined with a thin Republican majority in the House, create the perfect opportunity for them to threaten any Speaker. 


I believe that to give more legitimate value to a motion to vacate, the majority of the majority’s party should be a prerogative before a general vote. This way, the minority party members, who rarely support a speaker candidate from the majority party, would not be able on their own to force a vote on a motion to vacate. Also, the small caucuses from the majority party would not gain more power and force the Speaker to bend a knee for them just to stay Speaker. Let’s not forget the House Freedom Caucus only has 37 members, but due to their unwillingness to compromise with the other Republicans and a thin majority in Congress, they are one of the most, if not the most, powerful caucus in Congress.


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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Jeff Hall
Jeff Hall
19 thg 4

It's all so petty these days. It's not about governance; it's all tit-for-tat.

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