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4 notable points from the historic removal of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Kevin McCarthy's tenure as speaker was rather brief and far from pleasant.

4 notable points from the historic removal of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

On Tuesday, he faced opposition from both sides of the aisle, as eight Republicans joined all Democrats in a historic 216-210 vote to remove him from the position.

By the end of the evening, an interim speaker had been appointed, but there was little certainty regarding the ultimate selection for the role.Here are four key takeaways from the tumultuous day at the Capitol.


1. We are navigating uncharted waters.

To provide some context, McCarthy assumed the role of speaker in January after 15 rounds of voting. He ultimately secured the position, in part, by acquiescing to demands from a fringe group of Republicans, which allowed just one member to propose a resolution for the speaker's removal.

Enter Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Gaetz had never supported McCarthy's speakership, and on Tuesday, he spearheaded the effort against him. Gaetz pointed to McCarthy's decision to pass a short-term spending bill with Democratic support as evidence that he had not kept his promises to conservatives.

While McCarthy's supporters urged calm during Tuesday's debate, cautioning that a vote to remove the speaker could "plunge [the House] into chaos," Gaetz swiftly shifted blame.

"Chaos is Speaker McCarthy. Chaos is someone whom we cannot trust with their word," Gaetz asserted.

While Gaetz is the public face of the rebellion and the de facto leader of the opposition Republicans who voted against McCarthy, the majority of members in the Republican conference in the House remained loyal to their elected leader.

Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a supporter of McCarthy, expressed disappointment and frustration about the vote to vacate the speakership. She believed Gaetz's motivations were driven by personal animosity and saw him as President Biden's "favorite Republican" because "he's siding with the Democrats."

2. The Republican Party did not anticipate this situation.

The House will be compelled to conduct a vote to elect a new speaker, but it remains uncertain who can garner sufficient votes for the position.

McCarthy has confirmed that he will not seek the speakership again. Majority Whip Tom Emmer informed reporters that he would not pursue it, and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise stated that he has no announcements to make at this time.

Members have informed reporters that they anticipate organizing a candidate forum next Tuesday before the speaker votes, possibly as early as Wednesday.

Republican strategist Ron Bonjean told All Things Considered that this was not the way most Republicans would have preferred this situation to unfold.

"On one hand, I am genuinely shocked, and on the other hand, it's rather surprising that [McCarthy] lasted this long considering the current dynamics in the House," he said.

He expressed doubt that the group of eight Republicans who voted with Democrats to remove McCarthy had a plan beyond that action. 

"And I believe that's the most concerning aspect of it all—that they pursued this as a form of retribution for his support of funding the U.S. government," Bonjean noted, referring to the recent agreement on the short-term spending bill.

This sentiment was echoed by Miller-Meeks, who disclosed that her fellow Republican colleagues had asked Gaetz whom he had in mind to replace McCarthy as speaker but received no specific name.

"He has no particular individual in mind. He has no person," Miller-Meeks said.

3. The Democrats opted not to save McCarthy.

Before the vote, there was speculation that Democrats might step in to protect McCarthy by voting "present" instead of endorsing the motion to remove him. 

However, McCarthy did not offer them any concessions, and Democrats voted in favor of his removal.

Democrats have now nominated Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries for speaker, as they did during the earlier rounds of voting in January. Nonetheless, it is highly likely that he will once again fall short in the Republican-majority House.

Former Democratic House member and former CIA director Leon Panetta, speaking to All Things Considered, characterized McCarthy as a "failed leader."

Panetta attributed McCarthy's failure to his frequent capitulation to his opponents, which eroded his credibility and trust. McCarthy had hoped that by doing so, his opponents would eventually be loyal to him.

McCarthy expressed a sense of pride, accomplishment, and optimism as he departed from the speakership. "I hope you realize that every day I performed this role, whether you underestimated me or not, I aimed to do it with a smile," he conveyed to reporters following the vote.

 4. The House's operations will temporarily come to a halt.

Currently, House proceedings will experience a standstill.

North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry has been designated as the "speaker pro tempore," assuming the role of interim speaker.

McCarthy personally selected McHenry to ascend in the line of succession to the speakership if the seat were to become vacant due to death or a vote to vacate.

The extent and breadth of McHenry's authority will be defined as the House undergoes changes that will ultimately result in the appointment of a new permanent leader.

Nonetheless, the 56th speaker of the House, whomever that may be, will face the challenge of securing government funding and collaborating with Democrats, all while being mindful that the more conservative factions of the party could attempt to remove them with a single vote.

Republican strategist Bonjean stressed the need for change in this regard, stating that there are numerous Republicans capable of effective leadership. However, what they have just observed might give many individuals pause as to whether they would truly desire this role, as it's virtually unsustainable unless they modify the capacity for a small group of Republicans to remove their leader capriciously.


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