The House narrowly voted to remove Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday, condemning the House speaker to a fate that seemed all but guaranteed since he took the gavel in January with a group of rebels in his conference hot on his heels.
“The office of Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States is hereby declared vacant,” the clerk announced after the vote was completed.
In a stunning scene that marked the first time in history that this maneuver had been used to successfully remove a House speaker, eight Republicans joined all Democrats in a 216-210 vote to remove McCarthy from his post , which sparked a new battle for the speaker as speaker. A chaotic and unprecedented period begins in the lower chamber.
The path forward in the House of Representatives is as unclear as it is unprecedented. According to the House of Representatives, a temporary speaker – Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina – is expected to take over based on a succession list presented by McCarthy in January Regulate. McHenry will serve as speaker pro tempore until another speaker is elected.
McCarthy’s speaking time was marked by distrust from several quarters. While he routinely promised that he would “change Washington” and “never give up” despite lingering doubts – and sometimes underestimations – he remained largely at the mercy of conservatives in the House, as last-minute deals with the far right seemingly littered the majority of laws passed by the House of Representatives. But two pivots toward the middle — in the fight over the debt ceiling and, just this weekend, in work to prevent a government shutdown — appeared to doom his standing with the group he so passionately served.
For the Bakersfield native, who was first elected to the chamber in 2007, the road to speakership has been a long one that might have first been imagined more than a decade ago when he was named one of the three “young guns.” “It became known who would take over at the head of the party when the time had come for a new generation. But in 2015, McCarthy’s candidacy for speaker ended abruptly due to opposition from right-wing lawmakers who had long viewed him as insufficiently conservative.
A similar group in January threatened to derail McCarthy’s speaker ambitions by requiring him to go through 15 grueling rounds before giving him the gavel – albeit narrowly. But just nine months later, a small group of Republicans — Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Ken Buck, Rep. Tom Burchett, Rep. Eli Crane, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Bob Good, Rep. Nancy Mace and Rep. Matt Rosendale — many of whom were among those who initially rejected his offer and voted to oust him.
One of the last holdouts during the speaker fight, Gaetz, McCarthy, at the center of an infamous tussle in the House to usher in the new GOP majority, became McCarthy’s undoing this week when he formally moved to oust the speaker, setting up the vote to remove him from office remove.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House is already working for, and it’s not the Republican Conference,” Gaetz said as he teased the proposal on Monday.
Gaetz, McCarthy’s main critic in his conference and one of the House’s far-right lawmakers, had warned against the move in recent weeks and threatened to bring up the vote to oust the California Republican if he made a permanent decision to oust the administration to keep funded or turn to Democrats for help in the fight over government spending. When McCarthy did so over the weekend, averting a government shutdown, he opened himself up to the threat that has posed a major threat to his office since he took office — and Gaetz moved quickly.
McCarthy tried to call Gaetz’s bluff in calling the vote on Tuesday, telling reporters that the Florida Republican had personal grievances with him and had “planned this all along” while saying he stood by his decision to avert a government shutdown.
“Ultimately, keeping the government open and paying our troops was the right decision,” McCarthy said. “If I have to lose my job because of this, then so be it. But I will fight for the American public. And I will keep fighting.”
McCarthy’s allies defended him during debate on the motion Tuesday, saying the speaker earned the gavel by touting his accomplishments and arguing that ousting McCarthy threatened the Republican majority. But with a razor-thin GOP majority in the House, conservative opposition was enough to threaten McCarthy with the gavel. And the Democrats sealed his fate.
Although questions swirled about whether Democrats would save McCarthy – either by opposing the proposal, helping to file it or simply voting present to lower the hurdle he needed to survive – Democratic leaders in the House announced House of Representatives announced its intention to vote to oust the speaker, and the caucus agreed.
“It is now the responsibility of GOP members to end the Republican civil war in the House,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote in a letter to members of his caucus before the vote.
For some Democrats, McCarthy may have been seen as better than any alternative, which would likely be more conservative. But ultimately Democrats weren’t happy with McCarthy. Before the vote, McCarthy told reporters he did not expect Democrats to support him, indicating that a power-sharing agreement with the other party would not work. Still, he said he was “confident” he would keep the gavel.
“You ask why I am confident? Because who I am,” McCarthy said. “And I just don’t give up. So there are obstacles in my life, I fell many times, there was a time when I wanted to be a speaker and couldn’t, and you all counted me out. I am a speaker. I am the 55th Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
Without McCarthy at the helm, the House is expected to vote soon on choosing another speaker. But a successor who could win the support of the chamber’s majority was not immediately clear Tuesday as the Republican conference was mired in disunity.
“Why do Republicans always fight among themselves, why don’t they fight against the radical left Democrats who are destroying our country?” wrote former President Donald Trump in a post on social media before the vote.