Kevin McCarthy Ousted From House Speakership

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been removed as House speaker by a vote of the House of Representatives on a motion to vacate the chair brought by a member of his own party.

The unprecedented action plunges the House into what is certain to be a contentious speaker’s battle as it simultaneously battles the calendar to complete the appropriations process and continues its impeachment investigation into President Joe Biden.

The 216–210 vote was a significant—and ironic—victory for firebrand Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who rallied just seven Republicans to join him as he relied on Democrats to oust Mr. McCarthy.

One of Mr. Gaetz’s principal complaints against the speaker was that he had passed legislation with Democratic votes that a majority of Republicans opposed.

Mr. McCarthy, who won the gavel in January after 15 ballot rounds, had held the gavel for 9 months.

This is the first time a speaker has been removed through a motion to vacate. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) resigned as speaker and from Congress in 2015 before such a motion could be brought up. The last time there was a vote on such a motion was in 1910, which was unsuccessful.

Ahead of the ouster, a move to table the motion to vacate failed by a vote of 208–218. Eleven Republicans voted against tabling the motion.

Mr. McCarthy said on CNBC on the morning of Oct. 3 that he would not make any concessions to the Democrats in order to keep the gavel.

Democrats joined the handful of Republicans to oust Mr. McCarthy as speaker as House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said that House Democrat leadership would vote in favor of the motion to vacate.

“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Mr. Jeffries in a statement. “Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair.”

Under Mr. McCarthy’s tenure as speaker, the House passed legislation dealing with the debt ceiling, a deal he made with President Joe Biden; border security; American energy; and new IRS agents. Except for the debt ceiling bill, the bills have been dead on arrival in the Senate and have no chance of becoming law.

What Led Up to the Motion to Vacate

To obtain the speakership, Mr. McCarthy agreed to accept a rule change allowing any member to bring forth a motion to vacate at any time.

One day after Congress averted a government shutdown by passing a 45-day continuing resolution (CR) to extend funding beyond the close of the fiscal year, Mr. Gaetz took to the airwaves to announce his intention to oust the speaker.

“Speaker McCarthy made an agreement with House conservatives in January,” Mr. Gaetz said in an Oct. 1 CNN interview.

“And since then, he has been in brazen repeated material breach of that agreement,” Mr. Gaetz said. While Mr. Gaetz and others have frequently referred to this agreement, none have been willing to provide full details of its contents.

Then, referring to an alleged agreement Mr. McCarthy secretly made with the opposition, Mr. Gaetz added, “This agreement he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we had set up is a last straw.”

Mr. Gaetz added, “Overnight, I learned that Kevin McCarthy had a secret deal with Democrats on Ukraine.

“So as he was baiting Republicans to vote for a continuing resolution without Ukraine money, saying that we were going to jam the Senate on Ukraine, he then turns around and makes a secret deal.”

Mr. McCarthy denied that he had made any such deal.

On Oct. 2 Mr. Gaetz criticized the speaker on the House floor, referring to government overspending as a “yellow brick road paved by Speaker McCarthy.”

Tipping Point

As the clock ticked down on the fiscal year with no spending agreement in place, Mr. McCarthy brought a Republican-sponsored CR to the House floor, the Continuing Appropriations and Border Security Enhancement Act, 2024.

The 165-page bill would have extended government funding for one month while reducing overall non-defense discretionary spending by some 8 percent. The bill also included a package of border security measures.

Twenty-one Republicans joined Democrats in defeating that measure on Sept. 29, believing that the House should not extend government funding under any circumstances but continue working to pass the 12 required appropriations bills even if that resulted in a temporary suspension of non-essential government services—a shutdown.

Some House Republicans were also angered that Mr. McCarthy had presented a supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war effort in Ukraine, which passed on Sept. 28 despite being opposed by a majority of Republicans.

Those events apparently led Mr. Gaetz to finally make good on his threat to seek the speaker’s removal.

“And the reason we were backed up against shutdown politics is not a bug of the system, it’s a feature,” Mr. Gaetz said. “Kevin McCarthy’s goal was to make multiple contradictory promises, to delay everything, back us up against shutdown politics and, at the end of the day, blow past the spending guardrails he agreed to.”

Gaetz vs. McCarthy

During his appearance on “State of the Union,” Mr. Gaetz announced his intention.

“I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week,” he said. “I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy.”

Mr. Gaetz cited Mr. McCarthy’s going back and forth on issues and remarked that he didn’t keep his promises.

“Look, the one thing everybody has in common is that nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy. He lied to Biden. He lied to House conservatives. He had appropriators marking to a different number altogether,” he said.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mr. McCarthy had a response to Mr. Gaetz: Game on.

Mr. McCarthy said Mr. Gaetz’s wanting to get the gavel out of his hand is “nothing new” and that he has sought to do so since Mr. McCarthy ran for speaker in January, eventually winning after 15 rounds of balloting and many concessions to the hardline Freedom Caucus, including lowering the threshold for putting forth a motion to vacate to just one member.

“He’s more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something. He wanted to push us into a shutdown, even threatening his own district with all the military people there who would not be paid only because he wants to take this motion.”

Passionate Debate

The House was unusually full as nearly all members of both parties were in attendance for the hour-long debate.

Mr. Gaetz opened by listing his objections to the speaker, which centered on his perceived failure to leverage the narrow Republican majority to win concessions from the Democrat-controlled Senate and White House.

“Many of us had begged the speaker, pleaded with the speaker repeatedly, to utilize the debt ceiling to leverage spending cuts and reforms. But instead, he negotiated an unlimited increase to the debt ceiling through January of 25. As much as we can come together and gleefully spend through January of 25, with no significant wins for the American people in that [Fiscal Responsibility Act] or Failed Responsibility Act,” Mr. Gaetz, said during the debate.

The Florida congressman cataloged a list of Mr. McCarthy’s perceived failures and concluded, “We need a speaker, ideally somebody who doesn’t want to be speaker and hasn’t pursued that at all costs for his entire adult life, who will take the moment and do everything possible to fight for the country.”

“I must vote … to vacate the chair.”

The few Republicans who argued against Mr. McCarthy—Mr. Gaetz and Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)—majored on three issues: the need for an improved House process that allows more input from rank-and-file members; the growing national debt, which they believe Mr. McCarthy has not done enough to address; and their lack of trust in the speaker for allegedly breaking his word on a number of issues.

Rep Tom Cole (R-Okla.) led the debate in favor of Mr. McCarthy, saying, “Whether or not we agree on the speaker. He did the right thing. He did the right thing … for this institution. He showed it could function in a time of crisis. And finally, I think he did the right thing for our party.

“He made sure that we can continue to negotiate and achieve [conservative victories] in divided government, which calls for some degree of give and take. So I’m very proud of this speaker. I’m very proud to stand behind him.”

A number of Republicans argued passionately in favor of Mr. McCarthy, affirming his character and leadership and asserting that he has greatly improved the transparency in the way the House operates.

Others urged caution in rushing to remove the speaker, warning it would plunge the House into chaos when it desperately needs to focus of completing the appropriations process before the CR expires.

“This house passed funding for over 70 percent of the federal government’s appropriations and it’s sitting over in the Senate, where they passed zero—and we’re gonna beat up each other and talk about our internal processes?” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said.

“Speaker McCarthy has been leading at the top level to make sure that we have the tools to do our jobs in a different way than the House has done it before,” Mr. Scalise added, urging members to stay focused on their mission.

Others theorized that vacating the chair would inevitably lead to a deadlock, which could be broken only by cooperation with Democrats, eroding the Republican advantage in the House.

At the conclusion of the debate, the vote was taken by calling the roll.

Republicans Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (Ariz.) were joined by 208 Democrats in removing Mr. McCarthy from the chair.

By House rule, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) was declared speaker pro tempore, to serve until the election of a new speaker. 

The speaker pro tempore put the House in recess immediately to allow both parties to caucus before meeting again to elect Mr. McCarthy’s replacement. 

From The Epoch Times

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