A “palace coup” of sorts transpired on Tuesday and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) became the first Speaker of the House ever to be dethroned in a no-confidence vote. His tenure as Speaker ended when longtime McCarthy foe, Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), introduced a “motion to vacate.” Gaetz and a small band of eight hardline Republicans were joined by all Democrats in the House to approve the motion.
Just moments after the vote ended, Rep. Patrick McHenry, who serves as Financial Services Committee chairman, assumed the role of speaker pro tempore and gaveled the chamber into recess. McHenry has long been seen as a close McCarthy ally, and it is unclear if he could secure the votes to win the speakership.
The House Republican Conference is set to meet Tuesday evening to chart its next steps.
The Downfall of McCarthy
McCarthy’s fall from Speaker began on Saturday when he pulled off a surprising legislative victory by getting Democrats to join Republicans in approving a short-term funding bill that avoided a government shutdown.
Though that move may have pleased the White House, and was likely welcome to the millions of government workers who would have been furloughed or been forced to work without pay, it sparked quick backlash from far-right members of the GOP caucus.
The last time a motion to vacate vote was held on the House floor was in 1910. Then-Speaker Joseph Cannon (R-Illinois) survived the vote.
In theory, McCarthy could have asked for a lifeline from the Democrats, but he opted not to, and none was offered. In fact, while McCarthy crossed the aisle to keep the government from shutting down, there still isn’t a lot of trust in the deeply divided House chambers.
“I think it’s safe to say there’s not a lot of goodwill in that room for Kevin McCarthy,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts).
“At the end of the day, the country needs a speaker that can be relied upon,” added Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “We don’t trust him. Their members don’t trust him. And you need a certain degree of trust to be the speaker.”
Several of McCarthy’s supporters have already said they would plan to offer his name for the next round of speaker votes. However, other members of the GOP have already been floated as potential replacements. The shortlist includes Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, but the former has already endorsed McCarthy.
“We need Kevin McCarthy to remain as our speaker,” said Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Indiana) during the debate. “We’re going to stay focused on our mission of delivering common sense wins for the American people.”
Though it seems unlikely McCarthy can muster the votes, he hasn’t expressed regret for his actions in the efforts to pass the spending bill.
“If I counted how many times someone wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago,” McCarthy said earlier on Tuesday ahead of the vote.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.