For the first time in its 234-year history, 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.
Washington: Kevin McCarthy was axed Tuesday as speaker of the US House of Representatives in a brutal, historic rebellion by far-right Republicans furious at his cooperation with Democrats.
The maneuver laid bare the chaotic levels of infighting among Republicans heading to the 2024 presidential election almost certainly led by Donald Trump, who is making history of his own as the first former or serving president to be the target of multiple criminal indictments.
The first ouster of a speaker in the House’s 234-year history was supported by only a handful of right-wing Republican hardliners. However, the House is almost evenly divided and with Democrats joining eight rebel Republicans rather than riding to McCarthy’s rescue, he had no way to survive.
The 58-year-old former entrepreneur — who did not comment as he left the chamber — had sparked fury among conservatives when he passed a bipartisan stopgap funding measure at the weekend 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 bail out a speaker who only recently opened a highly politicized impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Republicans were warned by their leadership about plunging the party “into chaos” but Gaetz, who has repeatedly complained about McCarthy failing to honor agreements made with conservatives, retorted: “Chaos is Speaker McCarthy.”
“The reason Kevin McCarthy went down today is because nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy,” he added after the vote. “Kevin McCarthy has made multiple contradictory promises, and when they all came due, he lost.”
‘Pigsty of incompetence’
The New Democrat Coalition, a bloc of pro-business 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.
The writing was on the wall after Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries encouraged his members to oust McCarthy. Every Democrat then joined 11 rebel Republicans to reject a preliminary motion that would have blocked the final ouster vote.