In an extraordinary turn of events Kevin McCarthy has been removed from his position as Speaker of the House after a historic floor vote.
It marks the first time in US history that a Speaker has been ousted with the backing of members from their own party.
Eight Republicans, including Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, Tim Burchett, Eli Crane, Matt Gaetz, Bob Good, Nancy Mace, and Matt Rosendale, joined forces with the united Democratic conference, resulting in a vote of 216-210 to declare the office of the Speaker vacant.
The vote, orchestrated by far-right politicians, has left the House without leadership as a bitter power struggle takes place within the Republican Party.
McCarthy ally and House Rules Chairman Tom Cole described the development as a “vote for chaos”.
“Nobody knows what’s going happen next including all the people that voted to vacate have no earthly idea what they have no plan.
“They have no alternative at this point. So it’s just simply a vote for chaos,” he said.
The revolt against McCarthy had been brewing for several months, with Matt Gaetz emerging as his chief Republican opponent.
Gaetz, 41, finally proceeded with the motion to vacate after McCarthy’s decision to rely on Democratic votes to pass a stopgap spending bill, averting a government shutdown.
Despite McCarthy’s confidence in retaining his position, his fate was sealed when a motion to block Gaetz’s effort failed by a vote of 218-208.
Following the vote, Rep. Matt Gaetz called Kevin McCarthy “a creature of the swamp”.
“He has risen to power by collecting special interest money and redistributing that money in exchange for favours,” Gaetz said Tuesday about McCarthy. “We are breaking the fever, and we should elect a speaker who is better.”
With only 426 House members casting votes, McCarthy needed 214 supporters to maintain his speakership.
This development triggered a one-hour debate between McCarthy’s supporters and opponents within the Republican Party, with the latter group debating from the Democratic side of the House floor.
Representatives like Bob Good criticised McCarthy for handling the debt limit deal and efforts to prevent a shutdown.
House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole passionately defended McCarthy, describing it as a sad day and emphasising the overwhelming support within the party for McCarthy’s leadership.
However, Gaetz countered by highlighting the urgency of addressing the nation’s financial challenges and claimed that McCarthy had made promises he didn’t intend to fulfil.
The motion to vacate was supported by Democratic leadership, further signalling the end of McCarthy’s speakership.
This move marks a significant development as a successful motion to vacate had never been deployed in the House before, with the last attempt dating back to 1910.
McCarthy’s tenure as Speaker had been tenuous since his election in January, marked by the challenges he faced in navigating the deeply divided Republican caucus during critical debates concerning the debt ceiling and government spending.
It’s worth noting that McCarthy initially secured the Speaker’s position in January, but this victory came after a protracted process that involved 15 ballots. The tension between House GOP leadership and its more conservative members has been a persistent issue.
During the intense debate preceding the vote, McCarthy occupied a second-row aisle seat, reflecting the uncertainty of the outcome. The voting process itself contained surprising twists, such as the decision of Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who had previously worked closely with McCarthy but opted to cast her vote against him.
As the vote approached, McCarthy remained resolute in his stance, asserting that he would not make concessions to House Democrats, underlining the position of the Republican majority.
“If five Republicans go with Democrats, I’m out,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday morning before predicting: “I’m confident I’ll hold on.”
He did not.