By Kelvin Lee, Alonso Munoz
In a once in a century vote yesterday, Kevin McCarthy was ousted from his leadership position as Speaker of the House. Led by representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, the resolution to vacate the House speaker was voted by every democrat and 8 republican members, resulting in a 216-210 vote in favor to vacate. The consensus was clear: a vast majority of GOP members WANT McCarthy to remain speaker. It took less than 4% of republican members to vacate McCarthy, who now holds the title of the first formally vacated speaker in U.S. history.
Matt Gaetz and his small band of hardliners have been extremely critical of McCarthy who cut a deal with democrats to avoid a government shutdown on Saturday, conceding spending measures and maintaining funding levels the same as last year during a Democrat controlled house. Gaetz argued that the threat of a government shutdown should have been leveraged to get more drastic spending cuts. “This agreement that he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we set up is a last straw. I think we need to move on with new leadership that will be trustworthy. The only way Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House at the end of this coming week is if Democrats bail him out.” said Gaetz Sunday. McCarthy responded to Gaetz on X with “bring it”. And bring it Gaetz did this week.
However, GOP contrarians laid out the path to oust McCarthy all the way back in January. To secure the Speakership earlier this year, McCarthy made a deal that would allow one lawmaker to call a motion to vacate rather than the “direction of a party” requirement of prior. In terms of strategy, the slim democratic minority played this well. Forcing a deal earlier with McCarthy then abandoning him during yesterday’s vote, house democrats sparked instability among an already divided GOP whilst also hurting McCarthy, the house GOP’s most successful fund raiser and threat to Dems come next election cycle.
With McCarthy vacated, North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry will get the privilege of interim house speaker until another one is selected. Unfortunately, that selection process looks to be a rough road. It took McCarthy 15 ballots over five days to become speaker, and the next runner will likely have at least as hard as a time with now a precedent of ousting the position holder with just a small minority. The house is expected to hold speaker elections on the 11th, giving members a week to prepare. With the GOP in disarray, we turn to the time tested wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, “”A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”
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