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Kevin McCarthy Is Out as House Speaker: What Happens Now?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking with supporters of President of the United States Donald Trump at a "Make America Great Again" campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport in Goodyear, Arizona. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Kevin McCarthy’s tenure as Speaker of the House has turned out to be one of the shortest in history, lasting less than a year. 

The California Republican on Tuesday was ousted as speaker, with the House voting 216-210 to go along with a motion to vacate the speakership. Eight Republicans — Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Ken Buck (R-CO), Tim Burchett (R-TN), Eli Crane (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Bob Good (R-VA), Nancy Mace (R-SC), and Matt Rosendale (R-MD) — voted along with the Democrats to remove McCarthy. Gaetz had brought the motion to vacate after rules were changed at the start of the current Congress to allow any one member to bring a motion to vacate. 

“He has risen to power by collecting special interest money and redistributing that money in exchange for favors,” said Gaetz of the now-former speaker, per CNN. “We are breaking the fever and we should elect a speaker who is better.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), in something of a surprise, voted against the motion to vacate. 

Kevin McCarthy Is Out: What Happens Now? 

Congress will need to elect a new speaker. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) will serve as acting speaker before a new one is voted in. 

But for a new speaker to be elected, Republicans will need to agree on a candidate who can earn the support of a majority of the closely divided House, in which the Republicans’ majority is only a few seats. When McCarthy ran for speaker in January it took 15 ballots and numerous concessions, for him to win. 

McCarthy could try to return to the speakership, although that would require changing some minds of the members of the House who had earlier voted to oust him. 

“Everyone will be looking to see if McCarthy tries to run for speaker again,” reporter Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Eight no votes may be too much to overcome — and even if he could, he may not want the job anymore. we’ll see…once McCarthy is out, the real jockeying will begin.” Should McCarthy not regain the speakership, the question will be whether he chooses to remain in Congress. 

House Leadership

Some other members of the House Republican leadership declared that they were “stunned” by the removal of McCarthy, after about nine months as speaker. 

“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,” Rep Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the House Rules Committee, told CNN. 

As for former President Donald Trump, who has had a fraught relationship with McCarthy in the past, he has not yet weighed in, with CNN noting that allies of the ex-president are on both sides of the fight over McCarthy. 

“He did his thing for Kevin when he ran for speaker, but at the same time DJT has his own stuff to focus on, and he can’t be sticking his neck out whenever there’s a fight in the House, especially when he has people who endorse him on both sides,” a Trump ally told the network. 

The former president had demanded this summer that McCarthy endorse him, which the Speaker had been reluctant to do, and also pushed McCarthy both to begin impeachment proceedings against President Biden and to begin the process to “expunge” Trump’s own two impeachments. 

There’s a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to what happens next, whether it’s the status of the impeachment inquiry and the “expungements,” or what will happen to the existing committee leadership. Would the new speaker be required to make similar promises to the hardliners to the ones McCarthy made in January? And if they do, will it leave the new speaker with any mandate to govern? 

There’s also the question of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who had bet on an alliance with McCarthy, but now sees him out of the speakership. 

Author Expertise and Experience

Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.

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Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.