By: David Zimmermann & Audrey Fahlberg – nationalreview.com – October 3, 2023
The House narrowly voted Tuesday afternoon to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), with Democrats joining a small group of Republican rebels to vacate the speaker’s chair for the first time in history.
The vote passed 216-210 with the support of Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, who introduced the motion to vacate Monday night, and seven fellow House Republicans, as well as nearly the entirety of the House Democratic caucus, who were instructed by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries not to bail out the embattled McCarthy.
The seven other Republicans besides Gaetz who voted in favor of removing McCarthy were Representatives 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. They joined 208 Democrats in ousting the speaker, and seven members were absent during the roll-call vote.
Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina was named the temporary House speaker following McCarthy’s exit from the role. The event was unprecedented as successfully removing a speaker has not happened in U.S. history before. McHenry adjourned the chamber allowing the party caucuses to meet and discuss next steps.
House Republicans will reportedly convene at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday behind closed doors.
The House proceeded to vote after an hour of contentious debate on the floor, which began after a motion to table the vote to oust McCarthy failed.
Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma was the first Republican to speak in defense of McCarthy before a packed chamber.
“I recognize that my friends on the other side have a very complex set of partisan, personal and political calculations to make — and I certainly wouldn’t presume to give them any advice about that,” said Cole. “But I would say, ‘Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos. Because that’s where we’re headed if we vacate the speakership.’”
In leading the effort to vacate, Gaetz argued that McCarthy had failed to live up to the promises he made to the 21 GOP holdouts who delayed his ascension to the speakership in January. The lawmakers had demanded a return to regular order, in which individual spending bills are passed to fund various government agencies, rather than continuing the status quo, in which a single all government spending is packed into a single omnibus bill at the last minute.
In response to Cole, Gaetz argued that voting to oust McCarthy would end the “chaos” of the status quo, in which members are forced to pass multiple government funding bills all at once in order to avert a shutdown.
“I think the fact that we have been governed in this country, since the mid-’90s, by continuing resolution and omnibus is chaos, and the way to liberate ourselves from that is a series of reforms to this body that I would hope would outlast Speaker McCarthy’s time, would outlast my time here,” Gaetz said.
Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Garret Graves of Louisiana, and other Republicans joined Cole in defending McCarthy’s record while Gaetz continued outlining his case against McCarthy.
“Washington must change,” Gaetz insisted.
The speaker’s chair has never before been vacated in the history of the House of Representatives. In 1910, progressive Republicans tried to to oust Speaker Joseph Cannon for refusing to bring their priorities to the floor for a vote, but he survived.
After voting to vacate McCarthy, the House will proceed to voting on his replacement, though McCarthy can put himself forward to be reelected. It remains unclear who McCarthy’s successor will be as no consensus has emerged, though Representatives Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Cole have been floated by rank-and-file Republicans.
Earlier Tuesday, House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.) instructed his caucus not to support any motions to delay the intra-GOP effort to oust McCarthy from his leadership position, and even went so far as to urge Democrats to affirmatively vote against the embattled speaker. Given his slim majority, McCarthy required the support of nearly the entire Democratic caucus to survive the vote.
In a letter sent to his caucus Tuesday afternoon, Jeffries told Democrats they should not help McCarthy given his unwillingness to make concessions that would further empower House Democrats.
“Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner,” Jeffries wrote, “House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican motion to vacate the chair.”
Despite Jeffries’s opposition, McCarthy told reporters shortly before the vote that he was “confident I’ll hold on.”
“At the end of the day, if you throw a speaker out that has 99 percent of their conference, that kept government open, that paid the troops, I think we’re in a really bad place for how we’re going to run Congress,” McCarthy said ahead of the motion to table vote.
The Democratic minority leader’s comments come less than a day after Gaetz first filed a motion to vacate McCarthy from the speakership, making good on weeks of threatening to do just that. When filing the motion Monday evening, the Florida Republican accused the House speaker of striking a “secret, side deal” with President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party on Ukraine funding to avert a government shutdown.
“It is becoming increasingly clear who the Speaker of the House already works for and it’s not the Republican Conference,” Gaetz said on the House floor.
The stopgap spending bill was passed late Saturday before the shutdown deadline, giving Congress an extra 45 days to come to a long-term agreement on funding the federal government in fiscal year 2024. The new deadline is set for November 17.
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