Washington: The US House of Representatives for the first time in its history has booted its speaker out of the job, as infighting in the narrow and bitterly divided Republican majority toppled Kevin McCarthy from the position.
A resolution — titled a motion to vacate — from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla ., passed Tuesday with the support of eight Republicans and all the Democrats present and voting. The vote made McCarthy the first speaker in history to be removed from office, a bitter humiliation that came after less than nine months on the job.
Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, now the acting speaker, declared the House in recess until both parties can decide on a path forward. There is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority now that McCarthy has opted not to run for the job again.
McCarthy says he won't run for House Speaker again
Kevin McCarthy won't run again for House Speaker after being ousted from the post in a rebellion by a small group of Republican dissidents, Punchbowl News reported.
I will not run for speaker again. I’ll have the [Republican] conference pick somebody else.
Here's a closer look at what could happen next:
Is there an acting Speaker?
Immediately following Tuesday's 216-210 ouster vote, Republican Representative Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy ally, was appointed acting speaker for a very limited time - up to three legislative days in this case.
The acting speaker's duties are vague, according to a guide to the chamber's rules and procedures: That person "may exercise such authorities of the office of speaker as may be necessary and appropriate pending the election of a speaker or speaker pro tempore." While the speaker sets the overall legislative agenda in the House, it is the House majority leader who schedules specific bills to be debated and voted upon in the chamber.
Republican Representative Kelly Armstrong told reporters that McHenry's main task will be to "get us a new speaker." Anything further, he said, would spark a move to oust McHenry.
What happens next?
The first order of business for McHenry would be to elect a new speaker. As of now, it is unclear who House Republicans will nominate for the speakership. Some members left the chamber Tuesday determined to renominate McCarthy and vote for him for speaker until it passes. But now that he is out of the running, the path is clear for any Republican to jump in.
Some members, including Gaetz, have been broaching potential consensus candidates like Majority Leader Steve Scalise or Whip Tom Emmer who they see as bringing the conference together. Other names up for discussion include Rep. Kevin Hern, chair of the Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a favorite of the right flank of the party.
Once Republicans decide who to nominate for speaker, the House would have to vote as many times as it takes for a candidate to receive the majority of those present and voting for speaker. It can quickly become an arduous exercise, as it did in January when it took McCarthy an unprecedented 15 rounds to win the gavel.
Once a speaker candidate has won a majority of the vote, the clerk will announce the results of the election.
During a normal speaker election, which takes place at the start of each Congress, a bipartisan committee, usually consisting of members from the home state of the chosen candidate, will then escort the speaker-elect to the chair on the dais where the oath of office is administered. The oath is identical to the one new members will take once a speaker is chosen.
It is unclear if that is the same process that will be followed in this instance. It is customary for the minority leader to join the successor at the speaker's chair, where they will pass the gavel as a nod to the potential future working relationship between one party leader and another.
Pence was onstage at a national security and foreign policy event at Washington’s Georgetown University co-hosted by The Associated Press when the news broke.
When told of the historic vote, Pence waited several seconds before he responded. He then described it as a distraction from the issues that matter to Americans.
“Well let me say that chaos is never America’s friend. And it’s never a friend of American families that are struggling,” he said. “And I’m deeply disappointed that a handful of Republicans would partner with all the Democrats in the House of Representatives to out the Speaker of the House.”
A freeze on legislating?
Until a House speaker is installed, it is unlikely that further action will be taken on bills to fund the government, with lawmakers facing a Nov. 17 deadline to provide more money or face a partial government shutdown.
Republican lawmakers said they would need at least a week to choose a new speaker, which will eat into the time necessary to pass that needed legislation.
Battles over those bills and anger over McCarthy's failure to win extremely deep spending cuts sought by hard-right conservatives sparked the successful move by Representative Matt Gaetz to unseat him.
What are house Republicans, Democrats doing?
The House's 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats huddled privately to figure out their next steps - both political and legislative.
Each party was expected to try to settle on a candidate for speaker. That's fairly easy for Democrats as they are solidly behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who ran for speaker in January against McCarthy and other candidates.
Republicans, because of their obvious divisions, especially among a small group of hard-line conservatives seeking very deep cuts in federal spending, could have a harder time settling on a candidate.
McHenry could have an advantage now that he is acting speaker. It was unclear whether he wants the job. McCarthy said he will not run again.
The House finds itself in an unprecedented moment and so it was unclear exactly how quickly an election will be held in the full House. Normally, the elections for speaker are scheduled at the start of the new Congress every two years.
When will the next Speaker election be?
The leaders of both parties will have to decide when they are ready to enter into the process of electing a speaker.
The January endeavor was sloppy as McCarthy for days could not get enough votes to win and had to endure 15 ballots.
It could be at least as chaotic this time around for Republicans, unless they conclude that such chaos is creating a public backlash that could doom their election prospects in 2024 and they unite.
How does the speaker election work?
The election will be conducted by a roll call vote on the floor of the House. With two vacancies in the 435-member chamber, a candidate must get 217 votes to win if all members showed up and voted, and none abstained by voting "present." In January, McCarthy became speaker, but only after a record 15 ballots. Uniting the Republican conference behind a consensus candidate will be difficult, given the differing goals of swing-district moderates and ultraconservatives who ousted McCarthy.
What can the House do in the meantime?
The House has recessed until Oct. 10 with members heading home to their districts. Until a new speaker is chosen, it likely cannot conduct votes on legislation like pending fiscal 2024 spending bills. The rules have not been tested but the House rules-keeper is not expected to grant McHenry full speaker powers based on the limited role of the speaker pro-tem as outlined. House committees can conduct business however. That means the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden can continue, and two spending bills still before the Appropriations Committee can be approved there.
Who can run for Speaker?
Under the US Constitution, the House speaker does not have to be a member of Congress. That is the reason some Republicans have floated the name of former President Donald Trump for the job, even though he is running for president and has said he does not want the
Who could succeed Republican Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the US House
A small group of rebellious Republicans in the US House of Representatives succeeded in ousting their leader, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, on Tuesday in a historic first.
It was unclear who would succeed McCarthy, but these are a few possibilities:
Representative Matt Gaetz, the lawmaker who spearheaded the push to oust McCarthy, has said he would support Steve Scalise taking over the role. Scalise is the No. 2 House Republican and has long been favored to take over the head of the Republican Party in the chamber after McCarthy's tenure ended.
Representative Tom Emmer is the House Republican whip and had headed the House Republicans' campaign arm during the 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans recaptured the House majority from President Joe Biden's Democrats.
Representative Jim Jordan, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and an ally of former President Donald Trump, was nominated by some Republican rebels to be the speaker during the election to the seat in January. He received 20 votes during one round of voting.
Hardline Representative Byron Donalds, considered a rising star in the Republican Party, garnered 20 votes during one of the rounds of voting for the speaker's race in January.
Representative Patrick McHenry was named to step in as speaker pro tempore following McCarthy's ouster. Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, McHenry is a McCarthy ally who spoke in support of McCarthy prior to the vote.
Historically, the House has always elected one of its own as speaker, but the U.S. Constitution does not say that the job has to go to an elected member of the House. Some Republican allies of former President Donald Trump have suggested he could serve in the role, though the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination to challenge Biden has previously said he is not interested.
Gaetz voted for Trump to be the speaker during multiple rounds of the January vote and noted to reporters on Monday that the speaker does not need to be a member of Congress.
Representative Andy Ogles polled his followers on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday to ask who should be the speaker, and included Trump as one of the options.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is the Democratic leader and garnered more votes than McCarthy during 11 rounds of voting in the speaker's election.
Representative Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday he would not make another run for speaker.