WASHINGTON — Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the Donald Trump ally and conservative bomb-thrower who has been a nagging thorn in leadership’s side, filed a resolution Monday to force a vote to overthrow his political nemesis, Kevin McCarthy, as speaker of the House.

The House must now vote on whether to keep McCarthy on as speaker. It has until Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters on the steps of the Capitol, a beaming Gaetz predicted he has the votes to oust McCarthy — as long as Democrats don’t move to save the speaker.

“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,” Gaetz said.

During the past two weeks, Gaetz had issued a specific warning to McCarthy, saying he would try to oust him as speaker if he brought a short-term government funding bill to the floor that passed with help from Democrats.

True to his word, Gaetz made the motion to vacate Monday, just two days after McCarthy put a so-called clean continuing resolution, or CR, on the floor to avert a government shutdown, passing it with 209 Democratic votes and 125 Republican votes.

The House floor is normally loud and boisterous. But it was absolutely quiet as Gaetz stood up, buttoned his jacket, approached the well of the House and addressed the chamber Monday evening to announce the motion.

Asked by Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, who was presiding at the time, what his resolution was about, Gaetz replied: “Declaring the office of speaker of the House of Representatives to be vacant.”

When he finished after about a minute, there was no reaction from the gathered Democrats or the Republicans as he walked away up the aisle.

Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Kevin McCarthy speak in the House Chamber
Gaetz and McCarthy sparred during the 15 rounds of votes for speaker in January.Olivier Douliery / AFP via Getty Images file

If all 212 Democrats voted to remove McCarthy, Gaetz would need just four other Republicans to oust him. A handful of conservatives, including Bob Good, R-Va., Eli Crane, R-Ariz., and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said they would join Gaetz’s effort.

Other conservatives, like Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, said they were keeping an “open mind,” while Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said that he was torn by the decision and that most of his constituents “are saying vacate.”

“Well, it’s between two things for me. It’s between voting against my friend, Kevin McCarthy, and voting my conscience,” Burchett said. “And that’s kind of where I’m at.”

After he dropped the resolution, Gaetz said he hasn’t cut a deal with Democrats to get rid of McCarthy, even though he has spoken to many of them privately.

“I have made no deal with Democrats, because I believe that Democrats should vote against Kevin McCarthy for free. It’s Kevin McCarthy who’s out there offering deals to Democrats,” Gaetz told reporters. “I’m not offering anything, and I won’t offer anything. … When we stand here a week from now, I won’t own Kevin McCarthy anymore; he won’t belong to me. So if the Democrats want to adopt him, they can adopt him.”

Defiant, McCarthy and his allies have lashed out at Gaetz, accusing him of seeking the limelight and holding a personal vendetta against McCarthy. They vowed to beat back Gaetz’s efforts, and McCarthy has denied having any deal with Democrats to support him.

“So be it; bring it on,” McCarthy said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “I’ll survive.”

Just minutes after Gaetz filed the motion, McCarthy repeated those remarks on X: “Bring it on.”