Not even giving in to GOP hardliners on their "motion to vacate the chair" demand can get Rep. Kevin McCarthy the votes to become House speaker — at least not yet.
He seemed to agree Wednesday night to a main sticking point for some of the GOP hardliners — restoring an individual member's ability to force a vote on removing a House speaker. But in a vote Thursday afternoon, McCarthy still came up short.
There's reason for McCarthy to fear the "motion to vacate the chair."
The tactic was used by the House Freedom Caucus to frustrate and push out former House Speaker John Boehner.
Democrats, under former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, changed the rules to make it more difficult to force a vote on vacating the chair. The Pelosi rules require a majority of either party to sign on before a vote can be taken.
Now, GOP hardliners want a single member to be able to force a vote. Sensing it would be used to gum up the work of the House by the House Freedom Caucus, McCarthy had heretofore opposed changing the rules back, although he has now relented on that.
Why not just let a single member force a vote? Here's Rep. Dan Crenshaw, the Texas Republican, as quoted in a previous CNN story on the subject: “There’s a reason [the motion to vacate] already got debated. You can’t govern with a gun to your head and that is what they are asking for. It makes us highly unstable, and it lays out the potential too for Democrats to take advantage of this and create absolute chaos.”
A lot of this is theoretical. A motion to vacate hasn't actually been tried since 1910 — and even then it was unsuccessful. The threat of a motion to vacate the chair did lead to Boehner's resignation in 2015.
The lack of literature on how exactly it would play out is telling. It's a rarely used and not-very-effective tool, but in the hands of these all-or-nothing hardliners, could lead to some frustrating moments for whoever becomes speaker.