By a vote of 216–210, the United States House of Representatives today ousted Kevin McCarthy as its preeminent official by adopting a resolution declaring the office of Speaker to be vacant. It is the first time in the history of the institution that a motion to vacate has passed. McCarthy’s speakership lasted just two hundred and sixty-nine days, ranking as one of the shortest in American history.
Eight Republicans joined two hundred and eight Democrats to depose McCarthy, with the vast majority of the House Republican caucus voting nay, but powerless to prevent the eight rebels from forcing McCarthy’s ouster, owing to the deal he made with them back in January to make it easy to bring motions to vacate.
The House went into recess after the vote was announced so that members of each conference could ponder the fallout and contemplate their next steps.
Representative Patrick T. McHenry (R‑North Carolina) is now the Speaker Pro Tempore, in accordance with the House’s mid-session succession rules. McHenry will act as Speaker until a new Speaker is chosen by the House.
Two Republicans who had voted against tabling the resolution to vacate decided to back McCarthy in the end: Representative Warren Davidson of Ohio and Representative Victoria Spartz of Indiana. But those gains were not enough to save McCarthy’s speakership. He could not afford to lose more than a handful of Republican votes, owing to his very narrow majority, and in the end, he lost eight.
Those eight were:
- Eli Crane of Arizona
- Ken Buck of Colorado
- Andy Biggs of Arizona
- Matt Rosendale of Montana
- Matt Gaetz or Florida
- Bob Good of Virginia
- Nancy Mace of South Carolina
- Tim Burchett of Tennessee
Ultra MAGA firebands Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, Chip Roy, Jim Jordan, and others voted to keep McCarthy. Again, it wasn’t enough.
McCarthy’s predecessor Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Californian who served two stints as Speaker and was always well organized, did not participate in the vote because she is in California for the funeral of Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Alaska’s sole representative Mary Peltola did not vote either, because she is at home with her family following the death of her husband in a plane crash.
After his fate was decided, McCarthy “left the floor and returned to the speaker’s office, surrounded by a significant security detail. He answered no questions and said he’ll speak to the press later,” The Washington Post’s Mariana Alfaro reported.
The previous motion to table, which foreshadowed McCarthy’s fate, was defeated by a vote of 208–218. Eleven Republicans voted with 207 Democrats against that motion. Seven members of the House did not vote on the motion to table.
That vote was followed by a debate on McCarthy’s removal. Democrats did not participate, wanting the spectacle to be Republican-on-Republican. Matt Gaetz did much of the speaking for the anti-McCarthy camp — and from what is normally the Democratic side of the House — while McCarthy was defended by his closest allies and other House Republicans such as Steve Scalise and Elise Stefanik.
The roll call from the Pacific Northwest on the removal resolution was as follows:
Voting yea to remove McCarthy: Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, and Marilyn Strickland (WA) Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Val Hoyle, and Andrea Salinas (OR); Republican Representative Matt Rosendale (MT)
Voting nay to keep McCarthy: Republican Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Cliff Bentz and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR), Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson (ID), Ryan Zinke (MT)
Not voting: Democratic Representative Mary Peltola (AK)
“President Biden has demonstrated that he is always eager to work with both parties in Congress in good faith on behalf of the American people,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre following the initial publication of this post. “Because the urgent challenges facing our nation will not wait, he hopes the House will quickly elect a Speaker. The American people deserve leadership that puts the issues affecting their lives front and center, as President Biden did today with more historic action to lower prescription drug prices. Once the House has met their responsibility to elect a Speaker, he looks forward to working together with them and with the Senate to address the American peoples’ priorities.”
“House Republicans have proven once again that they cannot govern,” said Representative Suzan DelBene (D‑WA-01), who represents NPI’s home congressional district and chairs the DCCC. “From day one of this Congress, they have put their extreme, unpopular agenda ahead of the interests of the country. They have lurched from one manufactured crisis to another trying to get their way, putting families and our economy at risk. House Republicans alone started this leadership crisis and they alone can resolve it.”
“I am here in Congress to govern and address the issues facing families across Washington and the nation. I stand with House Democrats united around Leader Jeffries, and we will continue to find common ground where we can to advance the interests of the American people.”
“What this country needs is somebody who can govern, and Kevin hasn’t been that leader,” said Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D‑WA-03). “I didn’t vote for Kevin to become Speaker back in January, and I didn’t vote for him today. Instead, I voted for a new direction for the U.S. House of Representatives – one that serves the interests of normal Americans, not political extremists.”
“Members of both parties now need to work together and come to terms on a stable, bipartisan governing arrangement. My priority will always be what’s best for Southwest Washington and the country.”
Nothing prevents McCarthy from running again to be the speaker, but we can’t see a plausible scenario in which he gets elected. The eight rebels don’t want him. And Democrats uniformly don’t trust him. The time for dealmaking has passed. McCarthy’s efforts to placate his far-right flank simply haven’t worked.
The House of Representatives is truly in uncharted waters at this moment.