Johnson suggests next Congress will change motion to vacate rules


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West Virginia — The next Congressional term could kick off with a rule change to make it harder to boot a House Speaker from power, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said on Wednesday.

House Republicans are at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia for their annual retreat where party leaders and members plot the path forward for 2024 and beyond.

Johnson, who was optimistic that the GOP could retain and expand its razor-thin House majority in November, suggested the next Congress would also likely see a change to its motion to vacate rules – the guidelines by which a speaker is ousted from power.

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Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters that the next Congress could change the motion to vacate rules (Chip Somodevilla)

Ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed to lower the threshold from a House majority to just one person being able to trigger a vote to recall the House leader as part of a deal with critics to win the gavel in January 2023.

He wound up being ousted in early October by eight House Republicans and all Democrats after Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., filed a motion to vacate against him. Johnson was elected by the GOP Conference three weeks later.

The Louisiana Republican said he never advocated for the rule change but expected that a majority of his lawmakers would want to move forward. Dozens of House Republicans criticized the eight that voted to oust McCarthy, arguing it projected historic levels of instability under their leadership.

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy agreed to lower the motion to vacate threshold in January 2023, which was later used against him. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“I think that there’s a desire on behalf of the vast majority of the members of the House to reestablish some of the norms with regard to rules on the floor and how legislation is handled. Many of us, you know, do long for thoughtful and deliberative conversation, even across the aisle,” Johnson said.

“The motion to vacate is something that comes up a lot amongst members in discussion and 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 an issue because I don’t think it is one for now.”

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Photo of Rep. Gaetz leaving the Capitol Building.

Rep. Matt Gaetz triggered the motion to vacate against McCarthy last October (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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He added that both Republicans and Democrats “openly” discuss the need to raise the motion to vacate threshold, adding, “They have a desire for a more normal process on the House floor again.”

“We’ll be looking at that on the House rules package, and in our respective caucus and conference packages as well going into the new Congress and that’s just something we should do in due course to be good stewards of the institution,” Johnson said.



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