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Historic Vote Removes Kevin McCarthy from House Speaker Role

In a historic move, efforts to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his position were successful on Tuesday. This comes as a power struggle within the GOP continues in Congress. It marks the first time in American history that a House Speaker has been removed from office.

“I may have lost the vote today, but when I walk out of this chamber, I consider myself fortunate to have served,” McCarthy stated during a press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday evening. “I won’t change. I won’t waver.”

McCarthy has placed the blame for his removal from the speakership on Representative Matt Gaetz, stating, “Look, you all know Matt Gaetz. You know he was a maverick. There was no allegiance to spending.” McCarthy added, “It was all about getting your attention.”

Gaetz, a prominent Republican from Florida who has faced several scandals since being elected in 2016, has remained a steadfast opponent of McCarthy. On Monday night, Gaetz announced that, in response to what he called McCarthy’s “broken promises,” the conservatives who helped him secure the speakership would initiate a “vacancy movement” to remove McCarthy from his position if successful.

While McCarthy and his allies could have potentially managed Gaetz’s movement through various means, they chose to put the matter to a vote on Tuesday afternoon. It ultimately failed, with 11 Republicans defecting.

Following a subsequent final vote, McCarthy’s speakership came to an end. Eight Republicans joined with 208 Democrats to support the action. To conclude the proceedings, Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas, who was presiding over the House, stated, “The Speaker of the House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant.”

Gaetz defended his actions in a speech prior to the final vote, saying, “The current Speaker is Kevin McCarthy. The current Speaker is someone in whom we have very little trust in terms of fulfilling their words.”

After the vote tally, McCarthy made it clear that he would not seek re-election for the position of Speaker. “I will not be running for Speaker again. I will choose someone else in the conference,” McCarthy announced during a press conference.

Gaetz’s Challenge to McCarthy

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Gaetz’s move came at a time when McCarthy had reached an agreement at the end of the week to support a funding bill that would have prevented a government shutdown. On Monday, Gaetz alleged that he had made a “secret deal” with Democrats to fund the Ukrainian military in response to broken promises by McCarthy’s speakership. Gaetz and other hardline conservatives are critical of such funding.

Kevin McCarthy

Florida Congressman accused McCarthy of a “failure of backbone” in his dealings with the White House, alleging that the Speaker gives up “lunch money in every negotiation.”

During this time, McCarthy insisted that Gaetz’s dealings were “personal” and had little to do with policy or strategy. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning, McCarthy attempted to build confidence, referring to other challenges he had faced during his tenure as leader and posting “Bring it on” on social media.

McCarthy could have negotiated with Democrats for their support to keep his position secure. However, he did not do so, telling CNBC on Tuesday morning that Democrats would “decide what they’re going to do. And whatever they do, we’ll live with.”

Gaetz, however, continued his efforts to persuade Democrats and secure his vote against McCarthy.

On Tuesday morning, after a lengthy Democratic caucus meeting, party leadership announced that they would not be voting to help McCarthy or centrist Democrats leave their positions. There was little love for them within the minority party after investigations into accusations against President Biden following the January 6th Capitol riot and defense of former President Donald Trump.

What Happens Next?

Following the series of events designed to solidify leadership, McCarthy had prepared a “Speaker Voting” list since the 9/11 attacks to ensure an alternative could be chosen. For this role, North Carolina’s Patrick McHenry, an ally of McCarthy, was selected.

There is some debate over how much power McHenry will actually wield, but experts say his role will primarily be overseeing the selection of a new Speaker. The position does not have to be held by a current member of Congress.

McCarthy has been working diligently to secure his speakership since taking office. It took him just five days to secure the historic 15 votes necessary to be installed in the position.

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