POLITICS & ELECTIONS

McCarthy becomes the first speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a House vote

Oct 3, 2023, 2:50 PM | Updated: 7:02 pm

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) listens during a press conference on funding for the sou...

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) listens during a press conference on funding for the southern border at the U.S. Capitol Building on September 29, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job Tuesday in an extraordinary showdown — a first in U.S. history, forced by a contingent of hard-right conservatives and throwing the House and its Republican leadership into chaos.

It’s the end of the political line for McCarthy, who has said repeatedly that he never gives up, but found himself with almost no options remaining. Neither the right-flank Republicans who engineered his ouster nor the Democrats who piled on seem open to negotiating.

McCarthy told lawmakers in the evening he would not run again for speaker, putting the gavel up for grabs. Next steps are highly uncertain as there is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority. Action is halted in the House until next week, when Republicans try to elect a new speaker.

“I may have lost this vote today, but as I walk out of this chamber I feel fortunate to have served,” McCarthy said at a press conference at the Capitol. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

McCarthy’s chief rival, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, orchestrated the rare vote on the obscure “motion to vacate,” and pushed ahead swiftly into a dramatic afternoon roll call.

While McCarthy enjoyed support from most Republicans in his slim majority, eight Republican detractors — many of the same hard-right holdouts who tried to stop him from becoming speaker in January — essentially forced him out.

Stillness fell as the presiding officer gaveled the vote closed, 216-210, saying the office of the speaker “is hereby declared vacant.”

Moments later, a top McCarthy ally, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., took the gavel and, according to House rules, was named speaker pro tempore, to serve in the office until a new speaker is chosen.

The House then briskly recessed as lawmakers prepared to meet privately and discuss the path forward.

It was a stunning moment for McCarthy, a punishment fueled by growing grievances but sparked by his weekend decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.

But in many ways, McCarthy’s ouster was set in motion when, in deal-making with hard-right holdouts at the start of the year, he agreed to a series of demands — including a rules change that allowed any single lawmaker to file the motion to vacate.

As the House fell silent, Gaetz, a top ally of Donald Trump, rose to offer his motion.

Leaders tried to turn it back, but the vote was 218-208, with 11 Republicans against tabling the motion, a sign of trouble to come.

The House then opened a floor debate, unseen in modern times, and Republicans argued publicly among themselves for more than an hour.

“It’s a sad day,” Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said as debate got underway, urging his colleagues not to plunge the House Republican majority “into chaos.”

But Gaetz shot back during the debate, “Chaos is Speaker McCarthy.”

As the fiery debate dragged on, many of the complaints against the speaker revolved around his truthfulness and his ability to keep the promises he has made.

Almost alone, Gaetz led his side of the floor debate, criticizing the debt deal McCarthy made with President Joe Biden and the vote to prevent a government shutdown, which conservatives opposed as they demanded steeper spending cuts.

But a long line of McCarthy supporters stood up for him, including Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, who said, “He has kept his word.” Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., waved his cellphone, saying it was “disgusting” that hard-right colleagues were fundraising off the move in text messages seeking donations.

McCarthy, of California, insisted he would not cut a deal with Democrats to remain in power — not that he could have relied on their help even if he had asked.

Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a letter to colleagues that he wants to work with Republicans, but he was unwilling to provide the votes needed to save McCarthy.

“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Jeffries said, announcing the Democratic leadership would vote for the motion to oust the speaker.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden “hopes the House will quickly elect a Speaker.” Once that happens, she said, “he looks forward to working together with them.”

At the Capitol, both Republicans and Democrats met privately ahead of the historic afternoon vote.

Behind closed doors, McCarthy told fellow Republicans: Let’s get on with it.

McCarthy invoked Republican Speaker Joseph Cannon, who more than 100 years ago confronted his critics head-on by calling their bluff and setting the vote himself on his ouster. Cannon survived that takedown attempt, which was the first time the House had actually voted to consider removing its speaker. A more recent threat, in 2015, didn’t make it to a vote.

Gaetz was in attendance, but he did not address the room.

Across the way in the Capitol, Democrats lined up for a long discussion and unified around one common point: McCarthy cannot be trusted, several lawmakers in the room said.

“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.

“At the end of the day, the country needs a speaker that can be relied upon,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “We don’t trust him. Their members don’t trust him. And you need a certain degree of trust to be the speaker.”

Removing the speaker launches the House Republicans into chaos. Typically, top leaders would be next in line for the job, but Majority Leader Steve Scalise is battling cancer and Majority Whip Tom Emmer, like any potential candidate, may have trouble securing the vote. Another leading Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, is also a Trump ally.

“No matter who is going to be the speaker, the challenges still remain,” Scalise said. “But I think the opportunity is there to continue moving forward.”

Asked if he was physically up to the job, Scalise said, “I feel great.”

It took McCarthy himself 15 rounds in January over multiple days of voting before he secured the support from his colleagues to gain the gavel.

Trump, the former president who is the Republican front-runner in the 2024 race to challenge Biden, complained about the chaos. “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves,” he asked on social media.

Asked about McCarthy’s ouster as he exited court in New York, where he is on trial for business fraud, Trump did not respond.

One key McCarthy ally, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who is also close with Trump, took to social media urging support for “our speaker.”

Republicans left the chamber in a daze, totally uncertain about next steps. “I honestly don’t know,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz. “This is a total disaster.”

Many had lined up to hug McCarthy, some to shake his hand.

Democrats, who have bristled at McCarthy’s leadership — cajoling them one minute, walking away from deals the next — said they were just holding back, waiting for Republicans to figure out how to run the House.

Rep, Don Bacon, R-Neb., the leader of a centrist group, said the only option was to leave the eight hardliners behind and try to work across the aisle. “We’re going to stay with Kevin,” he said. “He told us earlier he’ll never quit.”

But McCarthy made it clear Tuesday night that he would not try to win back the job.

___

Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Stephen Groves, Mary Clare Jalonick and Will Weissert contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Politics & Elections

Eduardo Baca Cuenca, general consul of the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City, discusses voting by...

Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

‘They want to participate’: Mexicans in Utah will be able to take part in Mexico’s presidential vote

As the U.S. presidential campaign heats up, a parallel campaign south of the U.S. border for the Mexican presidency is reaching a crescendo.

10 hours ago

President Joe Biden at the US Military Academy commencement ceremony in West Point, New York, on Ma...

Aileen Graef, Athena Jones and Shania Shelton, CNN

Biden touts expansion of NATO and actions in the Middle East during West Point commencement

President Joe Biden touted the expansion of NATO, his actions in the Middle East and progress in lowering military sexual assaults in a commencement address to the West Point graduating class Saturday.

10 hours ago

Nathaniel Woodward announced ats UDP's Democratic nominee for Congressional District 2. (Photo: @Ut...

Carlysle Price

Utah Democratic Party announced Nathaniel Woodward as nominee for U.S. Congressional District 2

The Utah Democratic Party announced Nathaniel Woodward as their nominee for U.S. Congressional District 2 after a virtual, ranked choice vote that took place Saturday morning.

12 hours ago

FILE - Associate Justice Samuel Alito joins other members of the Supreme Court as they pose for a n...

Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press

Democratic senators request meeting with Chief Justice Roberts over flags flown at Alito’s homes

Two Democratic senators are requesting a meeting with Chief Justice John Roberts after reports that two separate flags carried by rioters at the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol had flown outside of houses owned by Justice Samuel Alito.

1 day ago

FILE - Steam billows from a coal-fired power plant Nov. 18, 2021, in Craig, Colo. The U.S. Securiti...

David A. Lieb, Associated Press

Republican AGs ask Supreme Court to block climate change lawsuits brought by several states

Utah state attorney general joins eighteen other Republican AGs in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved in a dispute over climate-change lawsuits.

1 day ago

The RNC convention which will take place at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee in July accuses Secret Servic...

Steve Contorno and Kristen Holmes, CNN

RNC and Secret Service escalate dispute over security at Milwaukee convention

The RNC is accusing the Secret Service of ignoring security concerns around its July Milwaukee convention.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

McCarthy becomes the first speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a House vote