House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was vacated from his office Tuesday — the first such vote in U.S. history — amid ongoing dysfunction in the Republican majority.
McCarthy’s tenuous hold on the third-highest elected office in America ended after a cadre of far-right Republicans, led by Florida Congress Member Matt Gaetz, formally motioned to vacate the chair days after the speaker negotiated a deal with the Senate, President Joe Biden and House Republicans to avoid a government shutdown.
The motion proved successful with the help of House Democrats, all of whom voted to give McCarthy the boot. McCarthy had not sought a deal with Democrats to remain in office, but Democrats, led by Brooklyn Congressman and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, would not voluntarily throw him a lifeline Tuesday afternoon. Jeffries urged Republicans to settle their “civil war” themselves.
New York City’s two Republican House members, Nicole Malliotakis and George Santos, had voted to keep McCarthy as speaker.
Meanwhile, Bronx Congress Member Ritchie Torres, a Democrat, offered a blunt assessment on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
“The House of Representatives, for the first time in American history, has removed a Speaker from office,” he posted. “The Republican civil war has escalated into a Republican coup that decapitated a Republican Speaker.”
BREAKING: The House of Representatives, for the first time in American history, has removed a Speaker from office.
The Republican civil war has escalated into a Republican coup that decapitated a Republican Speaker.
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) October 3, 2023
What happens next
North Carolina Republican Congress Member Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy ally, was appointed speaker pro tempore until such time as a majority of House members elects a new speaker. McHenry called a recess for the caucuses to reconvene and come up with “a path forward.” The House is expected to reconvene next week.
If recent history is any indication, McHenry could be in charge for a while.
In January, McCarthy, of California, was elected speaker after 15 rounds of voting despite Republicans having a thin majority in the House. Hardline Republicans like Gaetz had continually opposed McCarthy throughout the process in order to wrangle various concessions from him to advance their own agenda.
Ahead of a closed-door meeting with the Republican caucus Tuesday morning, former Speaker McCarthy told his colleagues: Let’s get on with it.
“If I counted how many times someone wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago,” McCarthy said at the Capitol after a private morning meeting.
It’s a stunning moment for the embattled McCarthy that serves as punishment sparked by his weekend decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown. So far, several hard-right Republicans said they were ready to oppose McCarthy.
Despite being thrown out of his speaker’s job, McCarthy remains a representative of his California district. In a private meeting with House Republicans, he told them he would not seek re-election as speaker.
‘End the House Republican Civil War’
Democrats were all too willing to help give McCarthy the boot; they were already steamed at the former speaker for walking away from the debt deal that he made with President Joe Biden earlier this year that already set federal spending levels as he emboldens his right-flank to push for steep spending reductions.
Jeffries, in a statement posted on X, also cited other reasons for Democratic support to vacate the chair — including rule changes that hard-right Republican House members supported to make such a motion easier to file; including “highly partisan poison pills” in legislation to undermine the National Defense Authorization Act; and launching an “illegitimate impeachment inquiry” against President Joe Biden without first authorizing it in a full House vote, contrary to what McCarthy had previously pledged.
“House Democrats remain unwilling to find common ground on an enlightened path forward,” Jeffries wrote in his statement. “Unfortunately, our extreme Republican colleagues have shown no willingness to do the same. It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War.”
Jeffries, as the Democratic caucus leader, would potentially become speaker if a majority of House members were to elect him, which is unlikely given Republicans currently hold the most seats.