Conservatives who make up the House Freedom Caucus last week forced a meeting of the House’s entire Republican conference to discuss a motion “to vacate the chair,” which is a push to force Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to step down.
The Freedom Caucus has worked on this effort to remove Pelosi since July. What was the deciding factor in going ahead now? How does the motion to vacate work, especially given the House’s Democrat majority? Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., chairman of the Freedom Caucus, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss.
We also cover these stories:
- The New York Times publishes an article detailing President Donald Trump’s income tax returns.
- Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham says confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett will begin Oct. 12.
- Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” will moderate tonight’s first presidential debate tonight, but doesn’t plan to fact-check either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona, who is also the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Congressman Biggs, it’s always great to have you on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Rep. Andy Biggs: Thanks, Rachel. Good to be with you.
Del Guidice: Thanks for making the time to be with us. Well, on Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus forced a meeting of the entire House Republican Conference to discuss the motion to vacate the chair, which is a push to get House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to step down. Can you tell us about what’s going on here?
Biggs: Yes. When Nancy Pelosi became speaker, because she had the majority, she changed the rules to make it very, very difficult to remove the speaker.
Wonder why? This is not a coincidence. One of the things that we have to do is we have to get our minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to make the motion. In order for him to make the motion, we have to go through the rules of our body, and so we were able to, the House Freedom Caucus, get enough signatures on board of people who want to see a change in the speaker to force the debate.
So, we had the debate last Wednesday that Speaker Pelosi should be removed. We know that. We all know that. The question is, was the timing appropriate? And we had a very good discussion within conference.
Del Guidice: The House Freedom Caucus has been working on this effort since July. Can you talk about what was the deciding factor to go ahead with this right now?
Biggs: Well, we’ve been pushing it, as you say, for months, even with a draft of a resolution to remove her done, but what really pushed everybody over the limit is this notion that she would even allow the suggestion of impeachment of the president for engaging in his constitutional prerogative, not just prerogative, but his obligation.
I mean, the American people elected him to be the president of the United States for a full four years, and part of his duty is to fill Supreme Court vacancies. And so, this notion that you would impeach him for doing a constitutionally required duty, which is just a step too far, and then her rhetoric in the recent couple of weeks has just been absolutely abysmal and demeaning to the institution. So, that was the last straw.
Del Guidice: Well, Congressman, that was actually one of my next questions, just talking about how Pelosi is threatening to, again, impeach the president for the second time this year for doing his job, as you highlighted, which is nominating a justice to fill the vacancy that was created by Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg.
So, what is her motivation here when he is just trying to fulfill the dictates of his role?
Biggs: Well, what she said is that they want to do anything, and the Democrats in the Senate have said the same thing. They will do anything to stop this nomination. That’s an outrageous statement in and of itself.
I mean, you have a really, really qualified individual, but what she’s wanting to do is even though the House has, virtually, nothing to do with the advice and consent, we just are observers, … she said it, basically, that she wanted to create a distraction, a distraction for this administration.
So, while they’re in a very contentious confirmation process, she wanted to tie down everybody that she possibly could in the White House by impeaching the president. Then secondarily, she’s also said she wants to impeach the attorney general, Bill Barr. So, when you hear that type of thing, you say, “This is a raw abuse of power, and it can’t stand.”
We’re a majoritarian country, but the rights of the minority, which in this case would be Republicans in the House, need to be protected. And so, that was one of our goals, is to say, “Look, she needs to be removed.” …
In fact, I would tell you that there’s largely consensus in the body that she needs to be removed. And if she actually does try to go through with any of this, the minority leader has said that he will make that motion posthaste, which is a privileged motion. So, it would get immediate attention.
It’s despicable that they would attempt to use impeachment. I mean, what they did last time was impeachment because they don’t like the president. This time, they would use it as a distraction, because they don’t like the fact that he got to appoint [Judge] Amy Coney Barrett.
Del Guidice: Can you talk a little bit about how the motion to vacate works, especially given the Democrat majority in the House?
Biggs: The way it works is the minority leader would file the motion with the clerk and bring it up immediately when we were on the floor and they would have to recognize they cannot not recognize him, they must recognize him, and he would make a privileged motion to vacate, which means to remove the speaker.
What would happen at that point is that we anticipate any ways that the Democrats would move to table or to set that motion to vacate aside, and we would then have a motion on that. That would be the telling motion. That would be effectively saying you support Pelosi or you don’t support Pelosi, you support the removal or you don’t support the removal, all in that motion to table.
We anticipate that there could be as many as 15 or 20 Democrats that would cross over and vote with the Republicans. If that were the case, then you would have a good chance of actually removing Nancy Pelosi.
Del Guidice: I was actually going to ask you too, are there any in her own party, and you did allude to this in your answer, mentioning that you think 10 or 15 Democrats might cross over and vote to remove her, but do you think there are those in her own party who are frustrated by her leadership?
Biggs: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, they are. They’re quiet publicly about it. I know that they’ve had some very contentious conference meetings, but moreover, some of my colleagues who are friends from the other side have expressed to me their frustration with her.
Some believe that she’s not far enough left, others believe that the more Marxist side of the Democrats have co-opted her speakership.
But what she has, Rachel, and this is important for everyone to understand, is she raises just bucket loads of money. And so, she’s so effective at keeping her conference together because she does raise an awful lot of money.
Del Guidice: A we look at the situation, and potentially … the House removing her, who would you all want to replace Pelosi with?
Biggs: Well, there’s so many people that I think would probably do a job of being fair, but it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody like a [Rep. James] Clyburn would come into play because I think that he would have the support of a fairly broad number of the Democratic Conference.
I think that he would also be a fair broker. I don’t think that he would ram this stuff down our throats. I think that he would also encourage his chairman instead of to violate the rules, to follow the rules. …
I mean, to violate the rules when you’re the majority is silly because you always have the votes, you know you always have the votes.
And so, when you try to prevent the members of at least one of the committees I sit on from actually raising a point of order or discussing issues, what you’re doing is you’re saying, “You know what, not only do we have the majority, but we’re not going to follow the rules. We’re not going to have decorum here. We’re not going to allow you to even have your say and represent your district here.”
That’s what’s happened here, and that’s how this whole body has been denigrated, because the speaker has allowed that to go on.
Del Guidice: Switching gears just a bit here, last week, you had a special order on the House to find out about who’s been funding the recent riots we’ve seen all across this country. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Biggs: Yeah. We’re able to control the floor for an hour and bring in people, many from the Freedom Caucus, but others from around the body as well, to come in and talk about a couple of things.
No. 1, the police have been mercilessly attacked. No. 2, even Democrats who run some of these cities have acknowledged that these riots are coordinated. And so, if you have coordination, then you know you’ve got organization.
The RICO Statutes, for instance, are very, very broad and allow for prosecution of a RICO, a civil RICO case, just on a conspiracy type of issue. And so, we wanted to forward the questions about the organizations, who’s out there? Who is coordinating these riots? Who is coordinating and giving material?
Over the last week, you’ve seen U-Hauls coming to some of these locations, filled with tools of rioting and causing mayhem. Somebody is organizing, and with somebody organizing, we need some people to come in and investigate, make arrests, and prosecute.
And the best place to do that, and which we’re all very frustrated about, is not necessarily Congress, which has some authority and some power to investigate, but is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That’s who should be conducting these investigations. We’re not seeing that, and it’s been very, very frustrating to us. And so, that’s why we did the special order last week.
Del Guidice: On that note, Heritage Foundation and senior fellow Mike Gonzalez recently did some investigative reporting himself, and in an exclusive commentary he did last week for The Daily Signal, he wrote that Alicia Garza, who’s one of the three founders of the Black Lives Matter organization, had partnered with the left-wing San Francisco group that’s known to carry water for China, which is the Chinese Progressive Association.
I’m just curious, did you happen to see this? And what is your perspective? I mean, we just talked about the FBI. Should Congress get involved? Who should investigate this? What should happen?
Biggs: Yes, Rachel, I did see the piece, and I saw several other what I would call more attenuated discussions of something similar, but the point is it was a great piece, but it also begs the question of, when will we see the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
Again, I used that term. That’s what they’re supposed to be doing, investigating these people and bringing them to bear. We leave that there. That’s the executive branch arm that’s supposed to be doing that.
But Congress also has a duty and an ability to conduct investigations. The problem that we have, Rachel, without getting political, I’ll just say that the other side controls and the other side doesn’t want to have investigations.
You have to understand that my colleagues across the aisle, they don’t even want to acknowledge that these are not peaceful protests. A lot of reporters just stand in front of burning buildings and say these are peaceful protests, or mostly peaceful protests, and that they’d been co-opted.
Well, who’s co-opting them? They don’t want to find out who’s co-opting these ostensible peaceful protests, and Congress does have committees. That Judiciary Committee is uniquely set up to conduct some of these investigations. Homeless Security could, Government Reform could, even Intelligence could, if those chairmen were willing and interested in getting to the bottom of this and bringing order and stability and security and safety back into our country, but they’re not interested in that.
They’re very comfortable with the discord that’s going on because they have a political agenda. And it’s a shame to me, that’s a shame to me, because Congress should be doing that, we should be bringing these people in, we should be helping get to the bottom of this and forwarding what information we obtained through our investigations to the Department of Justice. And that’s simply not going to happen under a Pelosi regime.
Del Guidice: I know we talked a little bit about this at the beginning, but I did want to circle back to this at the end, I realize all the action in the Senate, but I wanted to get your thoughts on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and how you hope the Senate proceeds as we ramp up to confirmation hearings.
Biggs: Well, first thing I’ll tell you is I hope the Senate proceeds with alacrity. They need to move swiftly on this. I think they’ve committed to doing that.
The good news is a lot of the Democrats don’t want to even meet with Amy Coney Barrett. That’s fantastic. That’ll make the process go a lot swifter, and a quick confirmation would be good for the country and be good for Amy Coney Barrett personally. That’d be good for the United States Supreme Court. She is a marvelous pick.
… Before [Brett Kavanaugh] was appointed and she was on the list, I looked very carefully to her opinions, at her writings or speeches. I looked at her character. She is a person with an unassailable personal character. She is a person of integrity and compassion, and she is a great human being, … the left can attack her on that, but she’s also unbelievably qualified. They can attack her on her qualifications.
She graduated summa cum laude, she’s a graduate, she’s No. 1 in her class, she is published, she gives speeches, she’s consistent, her opinions are well-reasoned, she’s applying the law, she is an originalist, she is an exceptional person and jurist, and she worked at a highly rated law firm. She’s an excellent lawyer, she’s been a top rated law professor type. This is a uniquely, highly qualified individual.
And so, by golly, if you’re going to be objective about it, you would say, “We need to vote for her. … Advice and consent of the Senate would be to confirm.”
I don’t think you’ll see that. I think already we’ve seen that they’ve attacked her Catholic faith last week. Rep. [Steve] Cohen from Tennessee basically intimated that President [Donald] Trump’s appointed too many Catholics. That’s despicable. How despicable is that?
There is no religious test, constitutionally, either. So, that bigotry is awful. They’ve attacked her for that. They’ve attacked her for adopting children of color from Haiti, for Pete’s sake. How despicable is that? I mean, it’s just outrageous.
Then when they find anything with her legal background to attack or her character to attack, then you have Bill Maher that just basically throws ad hominem attacks filled with expletives in it. Really what it boils down to, the question really is more, is Bill Maher capable of expressing himself without expletives and without ad hominem attacks on somebody who is an excellent pick for justice?
That is where we are today, Rachel. I’m sad to say, we’ve reached a point where somebody who is incredibly well-qualified is going to be attacked personally for simply not having any personal defects that would prohibit her from being confirmed.
It’s going to be a real hellacious battle, but I think it will be swift. Then I think she’ll be confirmed, and then she’ll go on to have a stellar career for many, many years, hopefully several decades, as a Supreme Court justice.
Del Guidice: Well, Congressman Biggs, thank you so much for joining us today on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” It’s great to have you.
Biggs: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.