Kevin McCarthy became the initial Speaker of the House in American history to be officially ousted from the position on Tuesday due to a conservative insurrection among Republicans. Eight of them joined all the Democrats to coerce the removal of the Speaker after an earlier vote indicated that his downfall was imminent.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
“The office of Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant,” Steve Womack, who presided over the dramatic session, declared following the vote. Thanks to a post–September 11 law intended to ensure continuity in government, the interim Speaker (third in line to the presidency) is Patrick McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina.
Despite the monumental embarrassment, McCarthy, 58, has stated his intentions to once again run for the position, promising a repetition of the January spectacle that required 15 ballots for him to secure victory. Similar to before, the opposition was led by Matt Gaetz, who filed what is known as a “motion to vacate” to initiate the process of dethroning the long-serving California Republican.
A silence overwhelmed the chamber when the first vote allowing McCarthy’s removal was finally brought to a close. In a room that usually maintains a low murmur of background noise even with only two members present, it became eerily quiet. During the silence, Gaetz walked up the center aisle of the chamber and proceeded towards the Democratic side of the room. There, he stood to manage the ensuing debate about whether to remove McCarthy. Each side took turns, with McCarthy defenders such as Republican whip Tom Emmer commending the Speaker for “outperforming expectations.” In contrast, Gaetz taunted those critics who claimed that dethroning McCarthy would only lead to further chaos. “Chaos is Speaker McCarthy. Chaos is someone we cannot trust with their word,” he remarked.
Given that Gaetz previously stated in January that McCarthy would be constrained as Speaker due to the conditions he negotiated with the far-right faction of the GOP conference to gain their support, the outcome was predictable. In the nine months that followed, McCarthy has been working to free himself from those constraints, which eventually led to the historic vote today. In the spring, he relied on Democrats to raise the debt ceiling after encountering opposition from conservatives. More recently, he has pushed for votes on aid to Ukraine and maintaining the federal government open, albeit until mid-November, with support from the minority party as well.
“If you throw out a Speaker who has 99 percent support from their conference, kept the government open, and paid the troops, we find ourselves in a very precarious situation when it comes to governing Congress,” he remarked on Tuesday morning, seemingly accepting his fate.
Although Gaetz and his allies achieved their short-term goal of ousting McCarthy, more Republicans expressed complete disdain towards the rebel leader from Florida. Dusty Johnson referred to Gaetz as “a sinister saboteur” motivated by “petty grudges” against McCarthy. Stephanie Bice accused Gaetz of “using the American people as pawns in his self-centered charade.” (Steve Womack, a McCarthy ally, did mention, “Actually, I quite like Matt personally, even though we strongly disagree on certain matters.”)
Meanwhile, Democrats simply had no interest in rescuing McCarthy, considering him fundamentally dishonest and untrustworthy.
Republicans expected McCarthy to make another attempt, but he withdrew during a brief gathering of House Republicans. Speaking to reporters afterwards, he delivered his own farewell. “I have no regrets for choosing governance over resentment. It is my responsibility. It is my duty,” he stated, before criticizing those who removed him.
“They are not conservatives,” McCarthy stated regarding the renegade Republicans whom he accused of voting against spending cuts because they were not drastic enough. He singled out Gaetz by saying, “It had nothing to do with spending,” and added, “It was all about seeking attention.”