U.S. House voting to remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker
U.S. House voting to remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker (C-SPAN)

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:

  1. Eli Crane of Arizona
  2. Ken Buck of Colorado
  3. Andy Big­gs of Arizona
  4. Matt Rosendale of Montana
  5. Matt Gaetz or Florida
  6. Bob Good of Virginia
  7. Nan­cy Mace of South Carolina
  8. 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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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