Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job Tuesday in an extraordinary showdown, a first in US history, The 216-210 vote, forced by a contingent of hard-right conservatives, throws the House and its Republican leadership into chaos.
McCarthy’s chief rival, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, brought forward the “motion to vacate” drawing together more than a handful of conservative Republican critics of the speaker and many Democrats who say he is unworthy of leadership.
Next steps are uncertain, but there is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority.
The Republican McCarthy’s fate is deeply uncertain as he faces what’s known as a “motion to vacate” from Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a strident critic allied with Donald Trump. It would take the support of only a handful of Republicans from his slim majority to remove McCarthy as speaker if Democrats vote in favour alongside the conservative rebels.
“If I counted how many times someone wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago,” McCarthy said earlier at the Capitol after a private morning meeting.
At the Capitol, both Republicans and Democrats met privately behind closed doors ahead of what would be a historic afternoon vote.
McCarthy received three standing ovations during the private meeting – one when he came to the microphone to speak, again during his remarks and lastly when he was done, according to a Republican at the meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it.
At one point, there was a show of hands in support of McCarthy and it was “overwhelming,” said Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Gaetz was in attendance, but he did not address the room.
On the other side of the Capitol, Democrats lined up for a long discussion and unified around one common point: McCarthy cannot be trusted, several lawmakers in the room said.