The U.S. House of Representatives passed a motion that removed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday. In the historic 216-210 chamber vote, McCarthy became the first Speaker of the House to be ousted by their peers.
All 208 Democrats that were present voted to remove McCarthy. Because of the thin majority, McCarthy needed all Republicans to vote against the motion to vacate, filed by GOP hard-liner Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. There were eight Republicans who joined the Democrats in supporting the ouster. This move was a signal for the future speaker to avoid compromise with the Democrats like McCarthy did when he opted to avert a government shutdown earlier that week.
McCarthy sided with Democrats by relying on their votes to push through a stopgap spending bill, which angered Republicans and led to the motion. Democrats were also unhappy with McCarthy for breaking promises he made to get elected Speaker of the House just nine months earlier. When the motion was filed, Democrats seized the opportunity to punish McCarthy and vote to have him removed.
Rick Bairett, an associate professor of political science at Southern Utah University explained, “Due to the U.S. being a two-party system, in addition to division between parties, we see a division within the parties, which can lead to situations like this.”
Not every Republican believed that ousting McCarthy was the answer. Rep. Mike Lawler warned Gaetz that removing McCarthy would be “destructive to the country.” Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, one of the eight Republicans, defended her vote to fire McCarthy saying “this was an opportunity to unite” the fractured GOP by removing McCarthy who had caused chaos during his tenure.
McCarthy’s ally, Rep. Patrick McHenry, has been named the interim speaker until the House holds a vote for a long-term replacement. The sudden change leaves the House in a frenzy during a crucial time for American lawmakers.
In a press conference, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Joe Biden hopes that a new speaker is elected quickly, quoting him saying, “The urgent challenges facing our nation will not wait.”
Until a new speaker is elected, the House will not be able to focus on any new legislation, most importantly a new spending bill that would prevent a government shutdown, and with the time to work towards that sitting at 42 days, the election of a new speaker is a priority.
Story by Chevy Blackburn and Aidan Mortensen
Photo courtesy of Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images