In an unprecedented move, Kevin McCarthy has been voted out of his role as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. This marks the first occasion in U.S. history where a sitting speaker has been removed via a vote. A member of his party surprisingly spearheaded the initiative to oust him.
This unexpected turn of events has thrown the House into a state of uncertainty, especially as it is currently navigating through the appropriations process and an ongoing impeachment investigation into President Joe Biden. One of the central figures in McCarthy’s removal was Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a known firebrand in the political arena. Gaetz, with the backing of a small group of Republicans and a significant number of Democrats, voiced his discontent with McCarthy. He was particularly displeased with McCarthy’s decision to pass certain legislations with Democratic support against the majority preference of the Republican party.
McCarthy’s tenure as the Speaker was relatively short-lived, having held the position for just nine months. After a prolonged voting process that spanned 15 rounds, he secured the role. It’s worth noting that the last time a motion to vacate the chair was even entertained was over a century ago, in 1910, which did not pass. More recently, in 2015, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) opted to resign from his speaker position before any motion against him could be initiated.
A significant point of contention that played a role in McCarthy’s removal was a rule change he had previously agreed to. This change permitted any House member to introduce a motion to vacate the chair at any given time. Gaetz, seizing this opportunity shortly after Congress had passed a resolution to stave off a government shutdown, accused McCarthy of not honoring an agreement made with House conservatives. Furthermore, Gaetz alleged that McCarthy had undisclosed dealings with Democrats, especially on issues related to spending limits and matters concerning Ukraine.
Gaetz stated, “Speaker McCarthy made an agreement with House conservatives in January, and since then, he has been in brazen repeated material breach of that agreement.” Gaetz also said that he learned McCarthy had made a “secret” deal with the democrats on Ukraine.
The incident finally pushing things over the edge occurred when McCarthy proposed a Republican-backed Continuing Appropriations and Border Security Enhancement Act, 2024, to be presented on the House floor. The 165-page bill aimed to extend government funding for an additional month while reducing non-defense discretionary spending by 8 percent. Additionally, the bill included a comprehensive set of border security measures.
The House was deeply divided during the debate over McCarthy’s removal. While some members lauded McCarthy for his leadership style and commitment to transparency, others were critical, pointing out his perceived inadequacies in addressing the national debt and alleged unkept promises. This intense debate culminated in a roll-call vote that led to McCarthy’s removal from his position.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) was named the interim Speaker until a permanent replacement was elected. The House then took a brief recess, allowing both parties some time to strategize before reconvening to decide on McCarthy’s successor.