Kevin McCarthy has been ousted from his position as Speaker of the House, marking the first time a speaker has ever been removed from his post. Representative Matt Gaetz and a group of hard-right conservatives led the ouster, which has left the House in chaos at a time when most Americans have minimal faith in their federal government.
“The ousting of McCarthy represented the first time in US history that a speaker of the House has been removed from office, marking an ignominious end to a short and fraught tenure for the California Republican,” The Guardian reported. “It comes as Americans’ approval ratings of Congress and the federal government remain near historic lows, with a majority saying they have little or no confidence in the future of the US political system.”
Now, the House is effectively stalled as the Republicans set about electing a new speaker. McCarthy indicated that he would not run for speaker, allowing for someone else to assume control of the slim Republican majority. That McCarthy would not elect to run again is no surprise. His election in January was the most tumultuous in the history of the House. His dismissal now has left him unviable.
Why was Kevin McCarthy Ousted?
Representative Matt Gaetz filed the motion to vacate against McCarthy, citing McCarthy’s collaboration with Democrats to pass a short-term spending bill as evidence that McCarthy had not “fulfilled his promises” to conservatives. But Gaetz was one of the primary holdouts during McCarthy’s election in January, one of the reasons that process was so drawn out. Gaetz was always skeptical of McCarthy, and likely always waiting for an opportunity to oust him.
When McCarthy’s allies rose to his defense, saying that a vote to vacate the speaker would “plunge [the House] into chaos,” Gaetz responded: “Chaos is Speaker McCarthy. Chaos is somebody who we cannot trust with their word.”
Still, the majority of Republicans voted to keep McCarthy in power. Only seven Republicans joined Gaetz and the Democrats in voting to oust McCarthy.
Who Will Replace McCarthy?
Republicans are expected to hold a vote to elect a new speaker next Wednesday, after meeting Oct. 10 behind closed doors to discuss potential successors. But who will replace McCarthy is not clear.
“Majority Whip Tom Emmer indicated to reporters he would not run,” NPR reported. “And House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said he does not have any announcement to make at this time.”
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean old All Things Considered that he didn’t believe the Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy had a plan beyond ousting the speaker.
“And I think that’s what’s most concerning of all,” Bonjean said, “is that they did this out of retribution for him going ahead and funding the U.S. government.”
Democrats Let McCarthy Fall
Democrats could have saved Kevin McCarthy but instead let the hard-right Republicans consume their own leader. Democrat Leon Panetta, who once served in the House himself, offered his insights into McCarthy’s downfall, calling McCarthy a “failed leader.”
“The reason [McCarthy] failed is because too often he capitulated to his opponents, and ultimately lost his credibility and his trust as a result of that, in the hope that ultimately his opponents would somehow be loyal to him,” Panetta said. “I think in doing that, he really undermined his credibility as speaker and that cost him.”
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
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