Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) hopes of maintaining his gavel suffered a blow Tuesday when Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) scored a procedural victory in his bitter personal feud with the speaker.
McCarthy lost a vote to table Gaetz’s motion to vacate the speaker’s chair when eleven Republicans joined every voting House Democrat in a 208-218 vote.
RELATED — Matt Gaetz: I Will Move to Oust McCarthy as Speaker
The House must now vote on the underlying motion itself after a mandated one-hour debate, but additional delay tactics may be possible. House rules are convoluted, and even experts do not agree on what parliamentary maneuvers are available and would be ruled in order if tried.
The most recent motion to vacate the chair occurred in 1910 after a long and complicated parliamentary power struggle that offered little guidance on how things may unfold Tuesday.
Several of McCarthy’s Republican opponents are expected to vote against the motion to vacate, but McCarthy would likely require Democrats to change their votes from the motion to table or else vote “present” in numbers large enough to offset votes to vacate.
RELATED — McCarthy to Gaetz: “Bring It On;” I’ll Survive as Speaker
The speaker said as recently as Tuesday morning he is unwilling to negotiate with Democrats to save his speakership, possibly the only method to sway Democrats.
McCarthy might choose against delaying the vote if he sees its results as inevitable. However, in that scenario, it remains possible McCarthy seeks a path to maintaining — or reclaiming — his speakership.
That path likely would require another long fight over the gavel, reminiscent of January, after which Republicans acquiesced to renominating McCarthy.
No other substantive House business may take place in the absence of an elected speaker. The House clerk would serve as the presiding officer of the House in the interim.
The motion to vacate only requires a majority vote.
Follow Bradley Jaye on Twitter at @BradleyAJaye.