In the American House of Representatives on Tuesday, a handful of rebellious Republicans ousted Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
This move came just days after internal strife within the party, following their failure to delay a government shutdown, further plunged Congress into chaos.
This historic event saw the House removing its leader for the first time ever, with eight Republicans joining 208 Democrats in voting to remove McCarthy out of 216 to 210 votes. McCarthy declared his decision not to pursue re-election for the Speaker’s role.
He proclaimed, “I’ve consistently upheld my principles,” and continued, “I’m confident I can continue the struggle, albeit through an alternative approach.”
It seemed like the House would be leaderless for at least a week as several Republicans planned a meeting on October 10th to discuss potential successors to McCarthy and a vote for a new Speaker on October 11th.
The uprising that unfolded on Tuesday was spearheaded by Congressman Matt Gaetz, a
Republican hailing from Florida, known for his unwavering opposition to McCarthy. Gaetz had ultimately backed McCarthy on Saturday to help pass a partial government shutdown-averting bill with Democratic votes.
He later rallied against McCarthy, stating, “Kevin McCarthy is a swamp creature. He came to power by amassing special interest money and redistributing it for political power. We’re breaking the fever now.”
This represents the most recent critical juncture in a year during which the Republican-dominated House brought Washington perilously close to a catastrophic default on the massive $31.4 trillion American debt and a limited government shutdown.
With Republicans holding sway in the chamber by a slender 221-212 margin, it implies that if Democrats join forces in opposition, they cannot risk losing more than five votes.
McCarthy’s removal as Speaker has stalled legislative activity in the House, and if Congress doesn’t extend funding, another government shutdown looms on November 17th.
The White House conveyed optimism about the swift selection of a new Speaker in the House, elevating them to the second-highest position, right after the Vice President.
The vote has put Congress in disarray as it struggles to update agriculture subsidies and nutrition programs, pass government funding bills, and consider further assistance to Ukraine.
It remains uncertain who will step into McCarthy’s shoes as his successor.
In recent weeks, McCarthy had repeatedly angered Democrats, including initiating an impeachment inquiry against President Biden and holding up a stopgap spending bill to prevent the government shutdown, which required him to garner Democratic votes.
Democrats could have saved McCarthy, but after considering their options, they concluded that they wouldn’t help Republicans resolve their internal issues.
Other potential Republican contenders may include figures like Steve Scalise and Tom Emmer, though none have publicly expressed interest. Representative Patrick McHenry was named as an interim appointment to the position.
In the past, both Republican speakers, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, retired from Congress after struggling with their conservative factions.
On the House floor during the debate, Gaetz and a handful of allies criticized McCarthy for relying on Democratic votes to pass temporary funding, leading to a partial government shutdown.
Republican Representative Bob Good stated, “We need a Speaker who can fight for anything, not just for staying Speaker.”
Representative Nancy Mess told reporters that she voted to remove McCarthy from the Speaker’s position because he had broken his promise to improve access to birth control and support the bill he had written on rape kits.
Mess said, “I have made deals with the Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who has not prioritized help for women in this country.” “We have done nothing for him.”
Those backing McCarthy, including a number of the chamber’s leading conservatives, contend that McCarthy has effectively restrained expenditures and propelled forward conservative objectives, even in the face of Democratic control holding control in both the Executive Branch and the Senate.
Republican Representative Tom Cole remarked, “We should carefully consider our actions before descending into turmoil.”
No Democratic support
Democrats have criticized McCarthy as untrustworthy because he broke the spending deal with President Biden in May.
Representative Pramila Jayapal expressed to journalists prior to the vote, “Allow them to be submerged in their own ineptitude.”
Gaetz was among more than a dozen Republicans who repeatedly voted against McCarthy’s bid for Speaker in January, after a four-day, 15-round voting marathon that ultimately saw McCarthy secure victory. To win the job, McCarthy had agreed to rules that made it easier for him to be challenged.
McCarthy’s backers have accused Gaetz of a hunger for publicity, an opportunity to win higher office, or resentment-driven moralizing over alleged sexual misconduct and illicit drug use.
Gaetz has denied wrongdoing and said he is not motivated by animosity towards McCarthy.
He said, “This is an evaluation of the unfinished task; it does not reflect a personal judgment of any specific individual.”
Covered by Maureen Bose, David Morgan, Richard Cowan, Nandita Bose, Moira Warburton, Susan Heavey, and Donna Chiacu; Crafted by Andy Sullivan; Revised by Scott Malone, Alister Bell, Howard Goller, Grant McCool, and Cynthia Osterman.