House ousts Kevin McCarthy as speaker, a first in U.S. history

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, speaks to members of the media at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Oct. 3, 2023.

Nathan Howard | Bloomberg | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on Tuesday ousted Republican Kevin McCarthy as speaker, the first time in history that the chamber has dethroned its leader in a no-confidence vote.

McCarthy, of California, was voted out as speaker when a small band of eight hardline conservative Republicans joined all Democrats to approve a “motion to vacate” introduced by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Florida, a longtime foe of McCarthy’s.

Moments after the vote ended, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a close McCarthy ally and Financial Services Committee chairman, assumed the role of speaker pro tempore and gaveled the chamber into recess.

The House Republican Conference planned to meet Tuesday evening to chart its next steps.

McCarthy’s ouster was effectively set in quick motion on Saturday when he pulled off a surprising legislative victory, getting Democrats to join Republicans in approving a short-term funding bill that avoided a government shutdown.

While McCarthy pleased the White House with that move, it fueled already simmering resentments over his leadership among far-right members of the GOP caucus.

Several of McCarthy’s supporters have said they plan to offer his name for the next round of speaker votes.

But other members of GOP leadership have also been floated as potential replacements, including Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Both of them are popular among rank-and-file Republicans.

The last time a motion to vacate vote occurred on the House floor was in 1910, when then-Republican Speaker Joseph Cannon survived it.

McCarthy’s hold on the speakership had been tenuous since he was elected in January, due to a small clique led by Gaetz who are unhappy with the Californian.

One source told NBC News on Tuesday that some McCarthy allies were “begging” a number of Democratic House members to vote with them to save his speakership.

“We need Kevin McCarthy to remain as our speaker,” Emmer said during the debate. “We’re going to stay focused on our mission of delivering common sense wins for the American people.”

Gaetz said, “The one thing that the White House, Democrats and many of us on the conservative side of the Republican caucus have in common is McCarthy said something to all of us at one point that he didn’t really mean and never intended to live up to.”

“There’s nothing selfish about wanting a speaker of the House who tells the truth,” he said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., departs from the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., Sept. 29, 2023.

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Gaetz said that McCarthy no longer represents the interests of the GOP caucus after the speaker worked with Democrats to pass a stopgap funding bill to avoid a government shutdown over the weekend.

House Speaker McCarthy: Matt Gaetz has 'personal things in his life that he has challenges with'

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., in a statement earlier Tuesday said the party’s members “will vote yes” on Gaetz’s motion to oust McCarthy, a pledge they fulfilled.

“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Jeffries said.

Gaetz had been threatening McCarthy with a motion to vacate since he worked with Democrats on a debt ceiling deal in the spring.

McCarthy told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday morning that Gaetz has “personal things in his life that he has challenges with.”

In January, as a condition to secure enough votes to become speaker, McCarthy agreed to change the rules to lower the threshold needed to bring a motion to oust a speaker from five votes to just one.

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