Hard-line conservative Republicans joined with Democrats to remove the Bakersfield Republican from the speaker’s chair. Kevin McCarthy’s ejection from the speakership is the latest blow to the power and reach of California’s congressional delegation, following former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s exit from House leadership and the recent death of longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
A handful of Republicans joined with Democrats on Tuesday to make Kevin McCarthy the first speaker of the House in history to be ousted by a vote of the chamber, throwing Washington into chaos.
The revolt against McCarthy was led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) and a small group of conservative Republicans who have complained that the speaker worked across the aisle too often. The 216-210 vote made clear that the GOP’s right wing will not tolerate leaders who compromise with President Joe Biden and his party.
Eight Republicans and 208 Democrats voted to dump McCarthy.
The result plunges the House even further into crisis, with no clear sign of who — if anyone — can muster enough votes to become the next speaker.
Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a close McCarthy ally, will serve as acting speaker until a new speaker is elected. After the vote, multiple Republicans approached McCarthy to offer condolences, shaking his hand and embracing him.
“We’re in uncharted waters,” Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) told The Times shortly before the vote.
Gaetz and his allies will likely demand significant concessions in exchange for supporting a new Republican speaker. Democrats could also attempt to extract concessions in exchange for supporting a consensus speaker, though such a deal is unprecedented in modern U.S. history.
The speaker’s defeat will have ramifications beyond his personal political career. Gaetz cited McCarthy’s Saturday decision to work with Democrats to keep the government open as one of the reasons for his coup, and McCarthy’s defeat sends a clear signal to whoever replaces him that the far right of the Republican Party will not tolerate compromise.
California will be affected, too: Without the Bakersfield Republican in the speaker’s chair, the state, which lost its senior senator just last week, will likely see its power in Congress further diminished.
Gaetz, after months of threats, filed a motion to oust McCarthy late Monday night, taking advantage of chamber rules that allow any lawmaker to force a quick vote to boot the speaker. McCarthy lost a vote to table Gaetz’s motion early Tuesday afternoon, 218-208.
After the procedural vote, Gaetz’s fellow Republicans appeared to refuse to allow him to deliver his remarks from their side of the House floor, forcing him to speak from the Democratic side of the chamber.
Democrats had made clear before the vote that they were not interested in bailing out McCarthy. “We are ready to find bipartisan common ground,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) wrote on Twitter late Tuesday morning. “Our extreme colleagues have shown no willingness to do the same. They must find a way to end the House Republican Civil War.”
The Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy were Gaetz, Andy Biggs and Eli Crane of Arizona, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Bob Good of Virginia, Matthew M. Rosendale of Montana, Ken Buck of Colorado and Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina.
Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana voted against McCarthy in an initial procedural vote but declined to remove him from the speaker’s chair, telling reporters before the vote, “I’m willing to give him one more chance.” Cory Mills of Florida and Warren Davidson of Ohio also backed McCarthy on the removal vote after opposing him on the procedural measure.
The House has been in disarray for much of the year, with GOP hard-liners demanding concession after concession in exchange for supporting McCarthy’s agenda. To win the speaker’s gavel in January, McCarthy restored rules that made it easy for any member of the House to move to overthrow him — the same rules that led to his defeat Tuesday.
After his election as speaker on the 15th ballot, conservative Republicans continued to complain about McCarthy’s supposed willingness to break bread with Democrats. Earlier this year, he worked with Democrats to suspend the nation’s debt ceiling so the United States can pay its bills. On Saturday, he relied on Democratic votes to avert a government shutdown.
In both cases, McCarthy initially tried to pass measures with only GOP votes. He only worked with Democrats after those efforts failed.
Still, Gaetz depicted McCarthy’s actions as a betrayal and proof that McCarthy was not fit to lead the GOP. Gaetz also alleged McCarthy made a “secret deal” to help Biden deliver funding to help Ukraine in its war against Russia. (McCarthy said this is untrue.)
Shortly before the vote to remove the speaker, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma chided his party’s rebels, saying that McCarthy over the weekend “put his political neck on the line knowing this day was coming to do the right thing,” he said. “He showed he can function in a time of crisis.”
Cole implored Democrats not to side with Gaetz. “Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos,” Cole said. “Because that’s where we are headed if you vacate the speaker.”
Gaetz offered a rejoinder. “Chaos,” Gaetz told Cole on the House floor, “is somebody we cannot trust with their word.”
Many Republicans are incensed with Gaetz and his allies. “You’ve got to see the grift for what it is,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) told The Times. “It’s just a group of people that don’t want conservatives to win.”
Rep. Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita implored his party to “be the no drama option for America,” saying that “a few Republicans who are running with scissors and supported by Democrats… have decided to make today about drama.”
Former President Donal Trump, who had previously made clear that he supported a government shutdown, weighed in on the crisis in Congress on Tuesday afternoon. “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves, why aren’t they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our Country?” he posted on his conservative social media website, Truth Social.
McCarthy’s ejection from the speakership is the latest blow to the power and reach of California’s congressional delegation, following former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s exit from House leadership and the recent death of longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Democratic Reps. Pete Aguilar of Redlands and Ted Lieu of Torrance are the only Californians left in leadership in either chamber of Congress.
But leading Democrats expressed few concerns about McCarthy’s troubles.
“The Speaker of the House is chosen by the Majority Party,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday morning. “In this Congress, it is the responsibility of House Republicans to choose a nominee and elect the Speaker on the Floor. At this time there is no justification for a departure from this tradition.”
McCarthy’s politics are so far removed from the average California voter that Californians shouldn’t worry about him losing his job, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) said before the vote.
“He hasn’t really fought for California to begin with. And in fact, in many cases in the past, he’s done things that are very inimical to the interests of California,” Schiff, whom McCarthy kicked off the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year, told The Times. “At the end of the day, the country needs a speaker that can be relied upon. We don’t trust him, their members don’t trust him, and you need a certain degree of trust to be the speaker.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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