In an unprecedented turn of events, Speaker Kevin McCarthy was removed from his position, marking the first such ouster in US history. This extraordinary showdown was initiated by a faction of hard-right conservatives, plunging the House of Representatives and its Republican leadership into turmoil. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, McCarthy's chief rival, instigated the vote on the "motion to vacate," uniting conservative Republican critics of the speaker along with many Democrats who deemed him unfit for leadership.
The immediate aftermath of the vote saw the presiding officer announcing the speaker's office "is hereby declared vacant" after a close vote of 216-210. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., a staunch McCarthy ally, took the gavel as per House rules, becoming the speaker pro tempore until a new speaker is elected. The House then adjourned briefly to allow lawmakers to discuss the way forward.
This unprecedented move was a significant blow to McCarthy, who had faced growing discontent within his party. The catalyst for the ouster was McCarthy's decision to cooperate with Democrats over keeping the federal government operational, rather than risking a shutdown. The decision further fueled the anger of his conservative colleagues.
The initial vote was 218-208 against tabling the motion, with 11 Republicans permitting it to proceed. Following this, the House engaged in a floor debate, a rare occurrence in modern times, preceding the next round of voting.
While McCarthy had stated that he would not make a deal with Democrats to retain his position, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries made it clear that he would not provide the votes necessary to save McCarthy. Jeffries announced that the Democratic leadership would support the motion to remove the speaker.
Amidst the tension in the House, Gaetz, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, introduced the motion. Gaetz is a prominent figure among hard-right Republicans who had previously opposed McCarthy during his prolonged struggle to secure the speaker's position earlier this year.
The vote exposed a deep divide within the Republican Party, with McCarthy's supporters defending his leadership, while critics raised concerns about his credibility and ability to deliver on promises.
GOP faces leadership crisis after McCarthy's removal
The outcome of the vote has left the House Republican majority in turmoil, with no clear successor to McCarthy. The turmoil comes as a challenge for the GOP, and even former President Trump expressed his frustration on social media, questioning why Republicans are constantly embroiled in internal disputes.
Uncertainty looms over House Republicans and US Congress
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a key McCarthy ally, called for support for "our speaker" and an end to the chaos that has rattled the Republican majority. The ousting of the speaker further complicates matters as the party grapples to find new leadership.
The political landscape remains uncertain, with implications not only for House Republicans but also for the broader dynamics in the US Congress.