The House of Representatives voted 216-210 to oust Congressman Kevin McCarthy as Speaker, marking a historic first and a new chapter in the ongoing conflict between the Republican Party’s establishment and its hard right.
At the helm of the unprecedented effort to remove McCarthy was Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida who filed a “motion to vacate” after McCarthy supported a bipartisan deal to avert a government shutdown that saw the support of most Republicans and all but one Democrat.
Eight Republicans joined every member of the Democratic Party to exceed the simple majority needed to oust the speaker. These conservatives included Representatives Gaetz, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Eli Crane of Arizona, Bob Good of Virginia, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, and Matt Rosendale of Montana.
Congressman Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who voted to keep McCarthy in office will serve as Speaker pro tempore until Republicans choose a new speaker.
Many of those who voted in favor of McCarthy’s ousting characterized their action as holding the former speaker accountable for broken promises, some of which the speaker disputed and many of which were allegedly made behind closed doors. The speaker’s passage of bills that received widespread Democratic support stood as one of Gaetz’s chief concerns.
“Chaos is Speaker McCarthy. Chaos is somebody who we cannot trust with their word,” Gaetz said on the House floor. “The one thing that the White House, House Democrats, and many of us on the conservative side of the Republican caucus would argue is that 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.”
After negotiating with the White House on top-line spending numbers as part of an agreement to raise the debt ceiling last Spring, McCarthy elected to bring forth spending bills that proposed funding levels well below the negotiated numbers.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries explained his caucus’ decision in a Tuesday statement that referenced the reneging of the debt limit deal, alluded to by Gaetz, as well as other commitments McCarthy allegedly made to conservatives as part of the deal that helped him obtain the gavel after 15 failed votes.
The first of Jeffries’s concerns extended back to January when McCarthy appointed hardline conservatives with “an extensive track record of obstructing the people’s business” to the rules committee which allowed them to effectively veto bipartisan efforts by preventing such bills from reaching the floor.
He also cited the summer struggle to pass the normally bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act as a chief concern. After the bill passed the Armed Services Committee 58-1 along bipartisan lines, McCarthy allowed his members to insert conservative amendments, including an amendment restricting abortion rights, that saw the bill lose most of its Democratic support.
Additionally, after McCarthy said an impeachment inquiry would be initiated through a floor vote, McCarthy began an inquiry, that Democrats largely see as illegitimate, without calling for a vote which may not have received enough GOP support to pass by a simple majority.
Lastly, Jeffries criticized McCarthy for allowing the motion to vacate to be altered from its form under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, where a party’s majority was needed to advance the motion, to its current iteration where one speaker can initiate the procedure.
“Instead of preserving the motion to vacate as an extraordinary vehicle to be used rarely, if ever, House Republicans willingly transformed it into an instrument that could be deployed by any extreme member of their conference,” Jeffries said in his statement. “Once again, the House Republican Conference in its entirety empowered the MAGA extremists to paralyze the institution.”