In a stunning move, the House of Representatives voted to remove Kevin McCarthy as the speaker on Tuesday, making him the first speaker in U.S. history to be ousted by his own colleagues. The vote was 216-210, with eight Republicans joining all Democrats to declare the office of speaker vacant.
The unprecedented vote was triggered by a resolution introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz, a conservative firebrand who accused McCarthy of breaking his promises to the Republican conference and working for the Democrats. Gaetz and his allies were furious that McCarthy had cooperated with the Democrats to pass a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown over the weekend, instead of using the leverage to demand budget cuts and other concessions.
McCarthy defended his record, saying he had acted in the best interest of the country and the party, and calling himself “the adult in the room”. He also touted his achievements as the speaker, such as passing tax cuts, confirming conservative judges, and winning back the House majority in 2022. He urged his fellow Republicans to stand united and not to hand over power to the Democrats.
However, his pleas fell on deaf ears, as many Republicans expressed their frustration and disappointment with his leadership. Some accused him of being weak, dishonest, and corrupt. Others warned that ousting him would cause chaos and division within the party and among the voters.
The Democrats, meanwhile, watched in silence as the Republicans tore each other apart. They said they had no confidence in McCarthy as the speaker and supported the motion to vacate. They also criticized him for failing to rein in the extremist elements of his party and for enabling former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
The vote has plunged the House into uncertainty, as there is no clear successor to McCarthy. No Republican has announced their candidacy for the speakership yet, and it is unclear if any of them can secure enough votes from both sides of the aisle. The House will have to elect a new speaker before it can resume its legislative business.
The historic ouster of McCarthy marks a new low point in the bitter partisan warfare that has gripped Congress for years. It also exposes the deep rifts within the Republican party, which is struggling to define its identity and direction in the post-Trump era.