The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a motion to vacate the office of Speaker of the House, removing Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) from the position nearly nine months to the day after he assumed the role.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) filed the motion to vacate on Monday, citing McCarthy’s refusal to use the threat of a government shutdown to negotiate draconian cuts to social programs and impose harsher immigration standards. The vote commenced on Tuesday afternoon, with 216 members of Congress in favor of removing McCarthy from the speakership and 210 opposed.
Nearly all Democratic lawmakers in the chamber (208 in total, with four votes absent) voted for the motion, with eight Republicans joining them. All of the “no” votes came from Republicans.
Shortly after the vote, in a closed session of the Republican conference, McCarthy said that he wouldn’t seek the speakership again when the vote to choose a new leader of the House happens sometime next week. All votes in the House that were scheduled for later this week have been suspended until that time, although Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-North Carolina) will serve as speaker pro tempore until a new speaker is picked.
When he closed out the day’s business, McHenry, who opposed the motion to vacate, slammed the gavel disapprovingly.
McCarthy’s tenure is the shortest of any speaker of the House since 1869. It is the first time in U.S. history that a speaker has been removed from the position through a motion to vacate vote.
As of right now, it appears that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), the House Majority Leader, is the most likely candidate to become speaker. He has reportedly been making calls to lawmakers to garner their support.
It’s unclear whether Scalise or any other Republican lawmaker will be successful in becoming the next speaker of the House right away, or if they will have to face multiple ballots across several days before someone is selected, as McCarthy did in January.
“There is a real possibility for a long delay in finding a replacement speaker,” legal expert Omar Ochoa said in an email to Truthout. “And that may cause major disruptions in the operations of the federal government.”
Political commentators have stressed that the events of the past week are unprecedented.
“We’re in uncharted territory. We’ve never had this situation before,” Matthew Green, a political science professor at the Catholic University of America, told CBS News.
Even though Scalise appears to be the frontrunner, Republican lawmakers have indicated to Democrats that they do not know who will be chosen to lead the House.
“On the way out [of the chamber], three different Republicans told me three different names of people that they thought might be the next speaker,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) told Axios reporter Andrew Solender.
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