Ch 6 - October 5, 2023 7:03 am

Rep. Kevin Hern


The House on Tuesday voted 216 to 210 to remove California Republican Kevin McCarthy from his position as House speaker, a historic move that comes days after he reached an 11th-hour deal to avert a government shutdown with the help of House Democrats.

The vote, which came after Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz acted Monday night to force a motion to vacate the office of the speaker, made McCarthy the first speaker in history to be removed from office, a bitter humiliation that came after less than nine months on the job.

Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, now the acting speaker, declared the House in recess until both parties can decide on a path forward. There is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority now that McCarthy has opted not to run for the job again.

The North Carolina Republican was picked from a list that the speaker is required to keep of members who can serve in this position in the event a chair is vacated.

“He’s demonstrated a tremendous acumen as a member of Congress and is widely respected by most everyone who deals with him,” said Dee Stewart, McHenry’s longtime political consultant and his first chief of staff on Capitol Hill, who first met McHenry in 1996 at a convention of the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans.

Several names have been floated to replace McCarthy, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Oklahoma Congressman Kevin Hern. Hern’s name came up in January when Republicans needed 15 votes to agree on McCarthy.

“The one thing that the White House, House Democrats and many of us on the conservative side of the Republican caucus would argue is 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 on the House floor Tuesday.

Who could be the next speaker of the House?

At this point, it’s unclear who can garner enough support to win the gavel. McCarthy told Republican colleagues Tuesday night he will not run for speaker again.

Republicans have a narrow majority of 221 to 212, and McCarthy only managed to become speaker by making a series of concessions to the most conservative members. House Republicans began meeting Tuesday night to chart their next moves.

The full House votes to elect the speaker, and Democrats could attempt to build a coalition with Republicans, Green said.

Unlike in January, when the House could not begin its work until a speaker was elected, McHenry will serve in the role temporarily until a new speaker wins the gavel.

Casey Burgat, an assistant professor at George Washington University, said it may be difficult to find a candidate to succeed McCarthy who can garner a consensus of support and who wants the gavel.

“It’s hard enough as a leader, especially with a four-seat majority, but then you start having the infighting here,” Burgat said. “It’s also a pretty terrible job when no one is behind you consistently.”

How long could it take to elect a new speaker?

It’s unclear how soon after McCarthy’s ouster the Republican majority will begin the process for electing a successor. In January, when the 118th Congress convened and Republicans took power, it took 15 rounds of voting across four days for McCarthy to secure the support he needed to win the gavel.

His victory followed days of negotiating with the far-right members of the House Republican conference, and in order to win their backing, McCarthy agreed to a number of their demands. Chief among them was lowering the threshold for the motion to vacate, which allowed a single member to call for a vote to remove the speaker.

Like with the effort to oust McCarthy that played out Tuesday, Gaetz was at the center of the dispute over the California Republican’s quest to win the speakership in the first place. He angered some of his Republican colleagues when he voted “present” on the 14th round, blocking McCarthy’s bid and forcing another ballot.

Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican, warned that McCarthy’s removal would bring the House to a standstill as lawmakers work to elect a new speaker.

“If this motion carries, the House will be paralyzed,” McClintock said in remarks on the House floor. “We can expect week after week of fruitless ballots while no other business can be conducted.”

Green said while some believe the speaker pro tempore could continue to preside over the House for legislative business, it would be difficult for Republicans to advance legislation without a speaker in place.

“The reality is that the Republicans look to the speaker for all kinds of things, like setting the agenda and negotiating between factions in order to figure out what comes to the floor,” he said. “So without somebody in charge, it’s hard to see the House Republicans being able to bring much to the floor in the first place.”

Caitlin Yilek and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.


Gaetz is serving his fourth term representing a Florida district. He is a close Trump ally who filed the motion to vacate the chair, the procedure used to oust McCarthy, and he led the debate on the House floor for those seeking to pass the motion.

He was also a holdout in January when McCarthy ran to become speaker. The defining moment during that showdown came when Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican ally of McCarthy, angrily confronted Gaetz on the House floor before being pulled back by a colleague.

Gaetz could face political repercussions for his actions, as many Republican lawmakers blame him for this week’s chaos and view him as looking out for himself rather than for the good of the party.

“Look, you all know Matt Gaetz. You know it was personal. It had nothing to do about spending,” McCarthy said. “It all was about getting attention from you. I mean we were getting e-mail fundraisers as he’s doing it.”

Gaetz said McCarthy didn’t follow through on many of the commitments he made to win the speaker’s job, and that’s what drove him.

“Kevin McCarthy is a feature of the swamp. He has risen to power by collecting special interest money and redistributing that money in exchange for favors,” Gaetz said. “We are breaking the fever now, and we should elect a speaker who’s better.”


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