Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, is fighting for his political life after a right-wing dissident filed a rarely used motion to remove him.
Mr. McCarthy commented on social media in response to Matt Gaetz’s action: “Bring it on.” In response, Mr. Gaetz said, “Just did.”
After the Speaker passed a package to fund government agencies with the support of Democrats over the weekend, tensions between the two Republicans reached a breaking point.
A so-called motion to vacate has never before succeeded in removing a US Speaker.
The measure must be brought up for a vote within two days, although procedural barriers may be employed to prevent that from happening.
In a floor vote, the Speaker could be ousted with a simple majority of the House, or 218 votes if no seats are open.
The chamber is under Republican control by a slim 221-212 margin. However, only a small number of staunch Republicans have expressed a willingness to fire Mr. McCarthy.
The US vice-president comes before the Speaker in the presidential succession. He or she oversees committee assignments, determines the legislative priorities for the lower chamber of Congress, and has the power to make or break the White chamber’s agenda.
Due to Florida’s Mr. Gaetz and other ultraconservatives’ claims that the US has overspent on the country’s war, $6 billion (£5 billion) of funding for Ukraine was excluded from the arrangement that avoided a government shutdown late on Saturday.
Since leading party rebels in defeating the California congressman’s candidacy for the speakership in January and subjecting him to 15 arduous rounds of voting in the chamber, Mr. Gaetz has held the threat of deposing Mr. McCarthy.
McCarthy agreed to a rule change that would have allowed any single legislator to call for a vote to remove the Speaker during the political horse trading that took place before he ultimately won the gavel.
That made the motion to vacate possible.
Mr. Gaetz accused Mr. McCarthy of making a covert agreement with the White House to tuck additional cash for the Ukraine into separate legislation during a speech on the House floor on Monday.
Mr McCarthy has said there is “no side deal on Ukraine”.
After filing the motion to vacate, Mr Gaetz told a crowd of reporters: “Well, I have enough Republicans where, at this point next week, one of two things will happen.
“Kevin McCarthy won’t be the Speaker of the House, or he’ll be the Speaker of the House working at the pleasure of the Democrats, and I’m at peace with either result, because the American people deserve to know who governs them.”
Asked earlier on Monday whether his actions were plunging the institution into turmoil, Mr Gaetz told reporters: “You talk about chaos as if it’s me forcing a few votes and filing a few motions.
“Real chaos is when the American people have to go through the austerity that is coming if we continue to have $2 trillion annual deficits.”