Updated Oct 3, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House ousts Kevin McCarthy as speaker in historic vote

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

The House of Representatives made history on Tuesday by voting to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his post, setting up another grueling speaker election without a clear successor.

Why it matters: This could create an unprecedented stalemate in the House. McCarthy's speaker election in January took the most ballots since before the Civil War, and Republicans have struggled to maintain a functioning majority for moving legislation.

  • McCarthy announced to House Republicans later Tuesday that he wouldn't run again.
  • The House will start the speaker vote on Oct. 11, the day after a candidate forum, acting Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told Republicans on Tuesday evening.
  • This will give Republicans time to figure out their next moves, and many members of Congress will be in California later this week for the funeral of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Details: The final count to oust McCarthy was 216 to 210.

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) introduced the motion to vacate on Monday, with eight Republicans joining all House Democrats on the final vote to remove McCarthy.
  • The Republicans voting no included Reps. 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.

Ahead of the vote, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said it was "now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War."

Gaetz, who has long had a contentious relationship with McCarthy, threatened to introduce the motion for weeks if the California Republican allowed a continuing resolution to stop a government shutdown to come to the floor.

Inside the room: Tensions were high between Gaetz and McCarthy allies ahead of the vote.

  • "[T]hey're willing to plunge this body into chaos and this country into uncertainty for reasons that only they really understand." said House Rules Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
  • "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, 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 said in the floor.
  • Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) took aim at Gaetz for fundraising off the challenge, to which Gaetz shot back  that he'd rather fund his "political operation through hard-working Americans and y'all keep showing up at the lobbyist fundraisers," which was met with boos from the chamber.

Gaetz took aim at some of his own allies in the process over the handling of impeachment.

  • "The problem with my friend from Ohio's [Rep. Jim Jordan] argument is many of the bills he referenced as having passed are not law," he said.
  • "We are on a fast track to an omnibus bill and it is difficult to champion oversight when House Republicans haven't even sent a subpoena to Hunter Biden. It's hard to make the argument that oversight is the reason to continue when it sort of looks like failure theater."

Between the lines: Gaetz helped lead the efforts against McCarthy during the speaker's election in January, leading to days of chaos until the California Republican ultimately succeeded on the 15th vote.

  • Members of the House Freedom Caucus previously played a leading role in former Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) decision to step down from his position after threatening to use the mechanism to oust him.

What they're saying: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Tuesday evening that President Biden hopes the House will quickly elect a new speaker due to "the urgent challenges facing our nation" that will not wait.

  • "The American people deserve leadership that puts the issues affecting their lives front and center," she said.
  • "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."

The big picture: House Republicans will now be tasked with selecting a new speaker.

  • Other names floated include Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) and Mike Johnson (R-La.).
  • On Fox News after the vote, Gaetz mentioned Emmer, Johnson, Hern, Scalise and Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) as speaker possibilities.

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

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