Kevin McCarthy gets ousted as House Leader in historic move by his Republican party

Washington DC - The move to oust Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has succeeded.

Kevin McCarthy was voted out of his House Speaker position at the US Capitol on Tuesday.
Kevin McCarthy was voted out of his House Speaker position at the US Capitol on Tuesday.  © CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP -

Kevin McCarthy was axed from his role as speaker on Tuesday in a ruthless overthrow by far-right Republican lawmakers furious over his cooperation with Democrats.

McCarthy rode the tiger of far-right US politics led by Donald Trump to achieve his dream of becoming House speaker earlier this year. Then on Tuesday, the tiger turned and ate him.

No other speaker – a position second in line from the presidency in the federal hierarchy – has been ousted in US history.

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For the first time in its 234 years, the House backed a resolution "to vacate the office of the speaker" with a 216-210 vote setting the stage for an unprecedented contest to replace McCarthy a year before the presidential election.

Congressman Matt Gaetz led the criticism and charge against McCarthy, launching a move on Monday to topple the speaker with a "motion to vacate the chair."

The unprecedented maneuver laid bare the chaotic levels of internal squabbling in Republican ranks as they prepare for a 2024 presidential election effort led by Donald Trump. He is making history of his own as the first former or serving president subject to multiple criminal indictments and was in court in New York on Tuesday.

The first ouster of a speaker was supported by only a handful of right-wing Republican hardliners. However, the House is almost evenly divided and with Democrats joining the rebel Republicans, rather than riding to McCarthy's rescue, he had no way to survive.

Why was Kevin McCarthy kicked out as House Speaker?

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy surrounded as he walked to the House Chamber ahead of a vote in Washington DC on Tuesday.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy surrounded as he walked to the House Chamber ahead of a vote in Washington DC on Tuesday.  © Chip Somodevilla / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The 58-year-old Californian former entrepreneur had sparked fury among conservatives over the weekend when he passed a bipartisan stopgap funding measure backed by the White House to avert a government shutdown.

Florida conservative Matt Gaetz, who forced the removal vote, gambled that he could oust McCarthy with just a few Republicans, helped by Democrats loath to help a speaker who only recently opened a highly politicized impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Republicans were warned by leadership about plunging the party "into chaos" but Gaetz, who has repeatedly complained about McCarthy failing to honor agreements made with the far right, retorted: "Chaos is Speaker McCarthy."

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"Chaos is somebody who we cannot trust with their word," he added.

Democrats, too, had no love for McCarthy, pointing to his decision to renege on a deal with Biden on spending limits hammered out earlier this year in high-stakes talks over the federal budget.

The pro-business New Democrat Coalition, a large group of Democratic lawmakers, described McCarthy as "simply not trustworthy." And Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman Pramila Jayapal, a leading leftist, vowed to let Republicans "wallow in their pigsty of incompetence" rather than rescue McCarthy.

The tussle came two days after the House and Senate passed a measure to avert a costly government shutdown – both with big bipartisan majorities – by extending federal funding through mid-November.

Conservatives were furious, seeing their chances dashed for forcing massive budget cuts. They accused McCarthy of a flip-flop, saying he'd promised an end to hastily prepared stopgap legislation, hammered out with the support of the opposition, and a return to budgeting through the committee process.

"I hate losing Kevin as a friend but I worry about our country, in all sincerity," said conservative Tennessee congressman Tim Burchett.

The writing was on the wall after Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries encouraged his members to oust McCarthy. Every Democrat then joined the 11 rebel Republicans to reject a preliminary motion which would have prevented the final ouster vote from taking place.

With McCarthy out, the House rules provide for a temporary speaker to put the House into recess until a permanent replacement is elected.

Republicans will gather to put up a candidate for a vote to be the new speaker – and it is not out of the question that McCarthy could be nominated for a return to the role he just lost.

Trump berated Republicans on his social media platform for "always fighting among themselves." Tellingly, though, he offered no support for McCarthy.

Kevin McCarthy was elected as Speaker of the House in January, and made major deals to get there.

Cover photo: CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP -

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