House votes to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy in historic ouster

Rep Kevin McCarthy has been ousted from the speakership after a motion to vacate was filed by Rep Matt Gaetz. It’s the first time in history that a speaker has been removed by the House.

This comes after Mr McCarthy struck a deal with Democrats over the weekend on a 45-day funding resolution to avert a government shutdown.

Eight Republicans voted with the Democrats to remove Mr McCarthy, including Reps Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, Tim Burchett, Eli Crane, Bob Good, Nancy Mace, Matt Rosendale, and Mr Gaetz.

The final tally was 216 supporting the ouster and 210 members voting against it. Rep Patrick McHenry was named as the interim speaker.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Mr Gaetz said, “Kevin McCarthy couldn't keep his word. He made an agreement in January regarding the way Washington would work and he violated that agreement. We are $33 trillion in debt. We are facing $2.2 trillion annual deficits”.

“We face a de-dollarisation globally that will crush Americans, working-class Americans,” he added. “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 favours. We are breaking the fever now. And we should elect a speaker who's better.”

Mr Gaetz pitched Majority Leader Steve Scalise as a possible new speaker, saying that his GOP colleagues were in the “stages of grief”.

“I think there was a stage of denial and I've certainly experienced a good amount of their anger. And now we appear to be headed towards bargaining,” he said, adding that he “thinks the world of Steve Scalise” and that he would be a “phenomenal speaker”.

When asked if he was worried about being expelled from the chamber, he said: “Let me know when they the votes.”

Before the vote, there was discussion that centrist Democrats may come to Mr McCarthy’s aid, but Politico reported that at least six of them agreed that Mr McCarthy had “given them no incentive to salvage his besieged speakership”.

There’s no obvious replacement for Mr McCarthy, with The Washington Post reporting before the vote that many Republicans have said they will renominate Mr McCarthy for speaker and not allow the House to adjourn until he’s re-elected.

Asked if, like in January, we could see another 15 rounds to confirm Mr McCarthy as speaker again, Mr Gatez said, “I don't think we will. I think Kevin McCarthy should take a hint”.

“After 15 ballots to become speaker after eight months of a failed speakership and after removal in this historic manner, I think we should move on and find somebody else,” he said.

When asked about the possibility that the House is now paralysed in the face of more government funding needing to be approved by early next month, Mr Gaetz said: “What's paralysed the House of Representatives has been the failure of Speaker McCarthy. What paralyzed the House of Representatives was not taking up appropriations bills. We left for a six-week vacation while the appropriations process hung in the balance. Because I forced these people to take a few votes, you think I'm paralyzing the House of Representatives?”

“I think the House of Representatives has been paralysed for the last several decades as we've refused to pass a budget as we've governed by continuing resolution and omnibus bill,” he added. “This represents the ripping off of the bandaid and that's what we need to do to get back on track.”

Asked about not having a viable replacement, Mr Gaetz said, “for certain, Kevin McCarthy can't get 218 votes. So let's try the next person”.

When asked if he would put himself forward, he said, “Absolutely not.”

Ms Mace told reporters that “if you promise women you're going to help them, then you damn well better do it. So as a fiscal conservative – I'm angry – as a woman – I am deeply frustrated,” she said.

When asked if should support Mr Scalise as speaker, she said she was open to several people.

She added that if Mr McCarthy would “continue to be speaker, there would be chaos that would continue because he's not been honest with either party”.

Asked if Mr McCarthy could win back her support, she said: “He might, we'll see what happens next.”

Republican Florida Rep Byron Donalds was asked by the press if he thought he could be the next speaker.

“I honestly don't. I don't think so. I don't know,” he said, adding that Mr McHenry was a “fine” interim speaker, but he couldn’t say if he would support him as a possible permanent option.

Democratic Maryland Rep Jamie Raskin said he wouldn’t back Mr McCarthy, adding that “rightwing Republicans have to solve the problems that rightwing Republicans create. The civil war within the Republican Party has nothing to do with us. I voted 15 times for Hakeem Jeffries for speaker and I will vote 15,000 more times for Hakeem Jeffries”.

“We're only five or six votes away from getting Hakeem Jeffries to win – there are lots of moderate Republicans who are terrified by the rightwing drive under Donald Trump. Donald Trump is calling all the shots here,” he said.

Mr McCarthy was unable to kill the vote to vacate the chair, losing a motion to table the vote 208 to 218 with 11 members of his own party voting against the motion. The last vote to vacate the speakership took place in 1910 but such a vote has never before been successful.

The 11 Republicans to vote to allow the motion to vacate to proceed the floor included, Mr Crane, Mr Buck, Victoria Spartz, Mr Biggs, Mr Rosendale, Mr Gaetz, Mr Good, Ms Mace, Mr Burchett, Cory Mills, and Warren Davidson.

Ms Spartz wrote on X before the vote that “I will not table @RepMattGaetz’s Motion to Vacate @SpeakerMcCarthy and allow it to proceed to the floor but I will not vote to vacate the speaker at this time,” meaning that she would be allowing the vote on removing the speaker to reach the floor, but that she would ultimately vote for Mr McCarthy to remain in the post.

Mr Burchett told reporters ahead of the vote that he was mostly hearing “condescending comments” from the GOP leadership.

Asked if the leadership was still trying to win him over, he said: “I think they've gotten past that. I think they're just making me feel more confident about” his motivations.

“Last thing he told me last Saturday was ‘I really want to be speaker’,” he said of Mr McCarthy.

Mr Burchett went on to note the importance of his faith. “When I make a statement that I'm praying about it, I am praying about it and then when I get a call from the speaker and he belittles that – to me that shows another reason why we need a change in leadership.”

Rep Andy Ogles was polling his followers on X before the vote on who may replace Mr McCarthy, including former President Donald Trump, who, despite not being a member of the House, is technically eligible for the role. However, it’s considered highly unlikely that he would be offered, or accept, the post.

Mr McCarthy was only able to lose four Republicans in the face of a unified Democratic Party. But six Republicans said before the vote that they would support the removal of the speaker. Without a larger number of absences, Mr McCarthy would have had to rely on Democratic support to survive. That support didn’t materialise and a total number of eight Republicans voted to boot the speaker.

“We are ready, willing and able to work together with our Republican colleagues, but it is on them to join us,” Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told the press on Tuesday morning.

“If five Republicans go with Democrats, then I’m out,” Mr McCarthy said on Tuesday morning ahead of the vote.

“That seems likely,” Rachel Scott of ABC said.

“Probably so,” Mr McCarthy said.

About a deal with the Democrats, Mr McCarthy told CNBC: “They haven’t asked for anything. I’m not going to provide anything.” About a power-sharing agreement, he said, “that doesn’t work”.

Republican Rep Mark Alford blasted the anti-McCarthy faction during an appearance on CNN on Tuesday ahead of the vote, saying that the “shenanigans” will delay the negotiations on how to fund the government.

“We have 45 days to get this done for the American people. And this is gamesmanship that is going to slow us down and prevent us from doing the work that our voters sent us here to do. It’s unacceptable,” he said, adding that he’s concerned about what the infighting may mean for the Republicans’ chances in 2024.

“Americans are seeing that we need a marriage counsellor, basically, in our conference and until we get this family settled and we get communication and trust back in the relationships, I’m afraid we might lose our majority. We were sent here to do our job, and without that majority, we cannot get it done,” he told CNN. “And with the slim majority that we’ve had so far, Kevin McCarthy has been a miracle worker and able to push the ball forward.”

Debating the motion to vacate, Mr Gaetz responded to Ohio Rep Jim Jordan who listed Mr McCarthy’s “accomplishments”.

“The problem with my friend from Ohio’s argument, many of the bills he references as passed are not law. It’s hard to make the argument that oversight is the reason to continue when it looks like failure theatre,” he said.

“The one thing that The White House, Democrats and many of us on the conservative side of the Republican caucus have in common, McCarthy said something to all of us at one point that he didn’t really mean and never intended to live up to,” Mr Gaetz said as he argued from the Democratic side of the House after allies of Mr McCarthy blocked all the microphones on the GOP side, according to Punchbowl News.

The Republican side of the House groaned as Mr Gaetz spoke about a supposed “secret deal on Ukraine” between Mr McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

Rep Garret Graves slammed Mr Gaetz for fundraising off of his push to oust Mr McCarthy, prompting shouts of shame from the Republican side, while Rep Kelly Armstrong said, “The incentive structure in this town is completely broken... we have descended to a place where clicks, TV hits and the neverending quest for the most mediocre taste of celebrity drives decisions and encourages juvenile behaviour”.