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Kevin McCarthy Ousted from Speakership in Historic Vote, GOP Fractured

Kevin McCarthy Ousted from Speakership in Historic Vote, GOP Fractured

Former speaker Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy’s fall from grace exposes the Republican Party's internal turmoil and leaves the House with an uncertain future.


In a historic move on Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in a bipartisan way to sack Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his position less than nine full months into the role, throwing the legislative body into disarray and laying bare the deep chasm within the GOP.

No Speaker has ever been ousted from their leadership position through the passage of a resolution to oust them.

Why is it historic that Speaker McCarthy was voted out?

This unprecedented action, led by the far-right faction of the post-Trump Republican Party, underscores a rising tide of internal discord that has now crescendoed into public humiliation for McCarthy.

The vote followed a period of escalating tensions within the GOP, exacerbated by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s motion to unseat McCarthy on Monday, which received backing from Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and the Democratic caucus.

With 216 for and 210 against McCarthy’s ouster, the former Speaker of the House was booted from his leadership position.

This move to unseat McCarthy, a maneuver last seen in 1910 when it failed, signals a significant shift within the political landscape of the House and potentially the broader GOP. As the saga unfolds, the repercussions of this internal revolt could significantly impact the GOP’s unity and legislative agenda moving forward.

At 4:45 p.m. ET, the presiding officer announced, “The office of Speaker of the House is hereby declared vacant.”

The crux of discontent stemmed from McCarthy’s perceived close engagements with Democrats on spending legislation, particularly when he leaned on Democratic votes to pass a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown over the weekend.

Related: House Democrats Support Gaetz’s Motion to Remove McCarthy as Speaker

This monumental ousting shocked many, showcasing the far-right’s growing influence within the GOP and the widening ideological rift that threatens to undermine the party’s unity as it approaches the 2024 general elections. The fragile unity within the GOP was further destabilized as Gaetz, known for his staunch anti-LGBTQ+ stance, initiated covert talks with Democrats to orchestrate this coup against McCarthy.

The situational alliance between Gaetz and the Democrats illustrated a desperate measure to counter what they perceived as extreme governance from the right-wing factions of the GOP after McCarthy backed out on previous agreements he had made with Democrats, leading to widespread distrust.

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, notably, did not vote.

After the vote, the Democratic leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, issued a statement highlighting the dysfunction among Republicans.

“This is a solemn moment for the country and for the House of Representatives. The Constitution gifted us a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. House Democrats will continue to put people over politics and work together in a bipartisan way to make life better for everyday Americans,” Jeffries said.

“It is our hope that traditional Republicans will walk away from MAGA extremism and join us in partnership for the good of the country,” he continued.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement, "President Biden has demonstrated that he is always eager to work with both parties in Congress in good faith on behalf of the American people. Because the urgent challenges facing our nation will not wait, he hopes the House will quickly elect a Speaker. The American people deserve leadership that puts the issues affecting their lives front and center, as President Biden did today with more historic action to lower prescription drug prices."

She added: "Once the House has met their responsibility to elect a Speaker, he looks forward to working together with them and with the Senate to address the American peoples’ priorities."

What happens next, now that McCarthy is out as Speaker?

McCarthy’s ouster on Tuesday evening has propelled North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry into the position of Speaker pro tempore amidst a chamber plunged into disarray. According to House rules, McCarthy had previously submitted a confidential list of members to the House clerk in January, outlining a line of succession for the role of Speaker of the House in the event of a vacancy.

It has emerged that McHenry, a seasoned congressman serving his ninth term, was the foremost name on McCarthy’s list.

Now at the helm, McHenry, who also chairs the House Financial Services Committee, wields the power vested in the speakership to guide the chamber through the ensuing days. The role of the speaker transcends being a pivotal position in Congress, as it also designates the holder as second in the line of presidential succession, after the vice president.

As the dust settles from this historic vote, the House now faces a tumultuous path ahead in electing a new Speaker amidst fears of another government shutdown looming on November 17. The unfolding scenario paints a precarious picture, with Democrats cautiously evaluating their position as potential kingmakers while the GOP grapples with the fallout from this internal insurgency.

Related: Kevin McCarthy Elected Speaker of the House on 15th Vote

In January, it took 15 rounds of voting before McCarthy was elected Speaker. To secure the position, he made agreements with his far-right members, including agreeing to bring back the ability for just one member to call for a vote to replace the speaker. This decision has clearly backfired.

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