In a historic and unprecedented move, G.O.P. lawmakers voted to oust the Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday.
North Carolina's Rep. Patrick McHenry, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was appointed temporary speaker in his place. McHenry previously served as the House Republican Leader a few years ago.
The vote tally to vacate the Speaker's chair was 216 to 210. Every Democrat and a small coalition of 8 Republicans, led by Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, voted for the motion to vacate.
"It's the benefit of this country that we have a better speaker of the House than Kevin McCarthy. Kevin McCarthy couldn't keep his word," Gaetz told reporters after the vote.
Ahead of the vote, Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries had called on Congress to "end the chaos."
But Gaetz struck back, saying, "I don't think voting against @SpeakerMcCarthy is chaos. I think $33 Trillion in debt is chaos. I think not passing single-subject spending bills is chaos. I think being governed by continuing resolutions and omnibus bills is chaos."
I don’t think voting against @SpeakerMcCarthy is chaos.
I think $33 Trillion in debt is chaos.
I think not passing single-subject spending bills is chaos.
I think being governed by continuing resolutions and omnibus bills is chaos.
Chaos is somebody we cannot trust with their… pic.twitter.com/e3Nx2kIdyZ
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 3, 2023
South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace was also part of the eight Republicans who opted to oust McCarthy. "For me, it's not ideological. It's about having a leader in our nation who will tell the truth, who you can trust, and that's what the American people deserve," she said afterward.
McCarthy said he would not try for the speaker's gavel again while bashing the hard-right members of his party who orchestrated his exit. "You all know Matt Gaetz. You know, it was personal. It had nothing to do about spending," he said after the vote.
McCarthy questioned the motives of the members of his own party who voted against him. "They are not conservatives," he claimed.
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Some of the Republicans who voted against McCarthy said he was untrustworthy and they didn't like his bipartisan deal to avoid a government shutdown because he had reneged on his agreements with conservative lawmakers. McCarthy's supporters say their actions splintered the GOP conference and gave Democrats the upper hand.
"When you have a narrow majority, unity is our ally. Disunity is the enemy of the conservative cause and today is evidence of the fact that we have now given our majority to Hakeem Jeffries because we have refused to stay unified," said Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) on Fox News.
Tennessee Republican Tim Burchett told CBN News that McCarthy sealed his removal vote when he felt McCarthy slighted him for praying about the situation. "I just felt like it was a condescending thing that he said to me. And the conversation kind of got heated, and I just hung up and said, 'Well Lord, I guess You gave me my answer,'" Burchett said.
McCarthy seemed to characterize it as a misunderstanding.
"You said you were gonna pray about it. I wanted to talk to you about it. Somehow he construes that… I'm a Christian, I'm not going to offend someone. I simply read his quote back, I thought there was still an opening and I wanted to talk to him about it. He never mentioned anything when we were communicating like that," he told reporters.
All House business is effectively shut down until a new Speaker is elected. Some names are already being discussed, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. Republicans hope to have a nominee next week.
The future leadership of Congress is now in doubt as Republicans look for a new leader to head a razor-thin majority in the House. That battle is expected to be waged next week.