Kevin McCarthy made the wrong kind of history Tuesday — becoming the first speaker of the House of Representatives to be ousted by a floor vote driven by members of his own party.
Eight Republicans — Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Eli Crane of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Bob Good of Virginia, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, and Matt Rosendale of Montana — banded together with a united Democrat conference to declare the office of speaker vacant by a vote of 216-210, removing McCarthy (R-Calif.) from power and plunging the chamber into uncertainty as it faces a grinding process to pick his replacement.
McCarthy, who made no comment to reporters as he left the House chamber following the vote, was booted from his job three days shy of the nine-month anniversary of his election as speaker on the 15th ballot this past January.
Now, lawmakers face a rerun of that marathon process, with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) considered the favorites to put themselves forward for the job — assuming McCarthy doesn’t want to try again.
The sudden speakership contest, which takes priority over all other business, will also burn time needed to complete work on a series of government appropriations bills and, if necessary, avoid a partial shutdown at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 17.
One of McCarthy’s allies, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), was appointed temporary speaker until a replacement is elected.
As McHenry recessed the chamber so members of both parties could discuss the next steps, he slammed the gavel down with visible anger.
A motion to vacate had never been successfully deployed in the House before, and had only been attempted once — in 1910 against then-Speaker Joseph Cannon (R-Ill.).
“I think the world of Tom Emmer. I think he’d make a great speaker,” Gaetz told reporters on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday evening when asked about the coming leadership race.
Almost exactly 24 hours earlier, the Floridian had suggested Scalise should succeed McCarthy, providing his battle against multiple myeloma allows.
“It is awkward to talk about names until we understand how Mr. Scalise comes out of his treatment for blood cancer,” he said Monday night. “I am not the type of person that just says you blow by somebody because they’re getting a medical treatment.”
Gaetz had dangled the prospect of a revolt against McCarthy almost from the moment the Californian took the gavel.
The 41-year-old finally went ahead with the motion to vacate Monday night, after a weekend of stewing over the now-former speaker’s decision to call up a stopgap spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown — and rely on Democratic votes to get the measure through.
“I’m confident I’ll hold on,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday morning, but his political demise became a matter of time when a motion to block Gaetz’s effort failed 218-208.
Reps. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Cory Mills (R-Fla.) and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) voted against the motion to table, but to keep McCarthy in place.
With only 426 House members casting votes, however, McCarthy needed 214 supporters to keep his speakership.
The failed motion to table triggered one hour of debate between McCarthy’s supporters and opponents in the Republican party, with the latter group debating from the Democratic side of the House floor.
“We need a speaker who will fight for something, anything besides staying or becoming speaker,” declared Good, who assailed McCarthy for both the debt limit deal he reached with the Biden administration earlier this year and the maneuvering to avoid a shutdown.
“We need a speaker — ideally somebody who doesn’t want to be speaker and hasn’t pursued that at all costs for his entire adult life — who will meet the moment, and do everything possible to fight for the country.”
McCarthy’s ally, House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) followed Good with an impassioned defense of the former speaker.
“This is a very sad day, and certainly a day I never expected to have to live through,” Cole bemoaned.
“The overwhelming majority of my party supports the speaker that we elected. We’re proud of the leadership he’s shown,” he continued. “There’s a second group — a small group — honestly they’re willing to plunge this body into chaos.”
Gaetz later fired back at Cole, claiming that Republican inaction on the nation’s financial woes was plunging the US into dire straits.
“The thing we have in common [is] Kevin McCarthy said something to all of us at one point or another that he didn’t really mean and never intended to live up to,” Gaetz jabbed.
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) ticked through many of the overtures McCarthy had made to members of the conference during his tenure.
“Now more than ever, the Republicans must unify. The stakes are too high. We need to save our country, which is why this conference is proud to strongly support Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House,” she proclaimed.
The sternest rebuke to Gaetz came from Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a chief negotiator in the debt ceiling flap who admonished the Floridian for fundraising off this week’s GOP debacle.
“All of a sudden, my phone keeps sending text messages. Text messages saying, ‘Hey, give me money … I filed the motion to vacate.’ Using official actions, official actions to raise money,” Graves fumed.
“It’s disgusting. It’s what’s disgusting about Washington,” he added.
Throughout his remarks, Gaetz was peppered with audible groans and boos, at one point urging his colleagues to “boo all you want.”
The GOP rebels were bolstered by Democratic leadership, who announced hours before the vote that they had no interest in keeping McCarthy in control of the gavel.
Democrats were already annoyed with the GOP leader, claiming he had encouraged the hard-right to push for deeper spending cuts than those set out in the debt ceiling deal he brokered with the White House back in May.
“We encourage our Republican colleagues who claim to be more traditional to break from the extremists, end the chaos, end the dysfunction, end the extremism,” Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told reporters Tuesday morning. “We are ready, willing and able to work together with our Republican colleagues, but it is on them to join us to move the Congress and the country forward.”
“I think it’s safe to say there’s not a lot of good will in that room for Kevin McCarthy,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) upon leaving a meeting of the Democratic conference.
Even moderate Democrats like Rep. Jared Golden of Maine turned their backs on McCarthy, with Golden saying he saw “no reason” to keep the speaker in place.
Kevin McCarthy ousted as House speaker, causing Congress chaos (nypost.com)