House of Representatives Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, Ousted
In an extraordinary turn of events on October 3rd, the House of Representatives Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, was voted out of office—a historic first in U.S. history. This dramatic showdown, orchestrated by a group of far-right conservatives, has thrown the House and its Republican leadership into chaos, leaving observers both stunned and perplexed and the future of government operations in question.
The Speaker of the House is the head of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress, and is the third person in the presidential line of succession. This position, which was previously held by the long-time California Representative Nancy Pelosi, is responsible for setting the legislative agenda for the House of Representatives, setting the calendar, and controlling the assignments to committees. Therefore, it´s an important piece in the country’s political ecosystem.
McCarthy, who was elected this year after 15 rounds of voting, announced in the evening that he would not seek re-election as Speaker, leaving the position up for grabs. The House now faces an uncertain future, as there is no clear successor to lead the House Republican majority. Action in the House is halted until next week when Republicans will attempt to elect a new Speaker.
The architect of McCarthy’s removal, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, orchestrated a rare vote on the “motion to vacate” and quickly proceeded to a dramatic afternoon roll call. This unusual move was backed by eight Republican detractors, many of whom had previously tried to prevent McCarthy from becoming Speaker in January.
Curiously, these representatives built this political move on a concession McCarthy granted the far-right members of the party earlier this year: a rules change allowing any lawmaker to start the removal process.
In the end, the vote ended 216-to-210 with eight Republicans voting with 208 Democrats to remove McCarthy.
Following the vote, Rep. Patrick McHenry, a top McCarthy ally, assumed the role of speaker pro tempore, following House rules, until a new Speaker is elected. The House then adjourned for private discussions on the path forward, marking a pivotal moment in U.S. political history.
The ouster of Speaker McCarthy plunges House Republicans, who hold the majority in that legislative body into uncertainty at a critical time. The fall legislative agenda includes funding the government, with the looming possibility of a mid-November shutdown, as well as agricultural subsidies and aid to Ukraine.
At the time of writing this, it is not clear who will be McCarthy’s successor since the two favorites are out of the contest: Louisiana representative Steve Scalise withdrew after not gathering widespread support from the party and Jim Jordan of Ohio, who was supported by Trump, failed to get the necessary votes after three rounds and was disqualified by the party. It remains to be seen how the Republican Party will navigate this unprecedented situation. In the meantime, we must remain vigilant and closely follow the events as they unfold.