Kevin McCarthy was ousted as speaker of the House in dramatic vote Tuesday afternoon as Democrats joined with GOP critics to topple him.
The final vote tally on the motion to vacate, pushed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), was 216-210, with eight Republicans and virtually all Democrats voting to remove McCarthy from the speakership.
It’s the first time in history that the House has ousted a speaker. Stillness fell as the presiding officer gaveled the vote closed, saying, “the office of the speaker of the House is hereby declared vacant.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a top McCarthy ally, took the gavel moments later and, according to House rules, was named speaker pro tempore, to serve in the office until a new speaker is chosen.
The House then briskly recessed so lawmakers could meet and discuss the path forward.
The ouster throws into question the prospect of U.S. aid for Ukraine, said Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group, reacting in real time from the stage of Fortune’s CEO Initiative conference. “The votes going on right now, right?” Bremmer asked the crowd. “Is he out yet? He’s out.”
Ukraine spending was dropped from the short-term government funding plan passed last week over GOP opposition.
“Anyone that replaces McCarthy understands what they face if they try to push ahead with this Ukraine,” Bremmer told Fortune CEO Alan Murray in conversation. “This is on the back of Zelensky in Washington being told fairly clearly that there is not going to be the support for a second counter-offensive come next year. And that’s not because Biden doesn’t want it to happen. It’s just because the capability to push that through wasn’t up for McCarthy, so that just got a lot worse.”
Ousted over spending bill
It was a stunning moment for the battle-tested McCarthy, a punishment fueled by growing grievances but sparked by his weekend decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.
An earlier vote was 218-208 against tabling the motion, with 11 Republicans allowing it to advance.
The House then opened a floor debate, unseen in modern times, ahead of the next round of voting.
McCarthy, of California, insisted he would not cut a deal with Democrats to remain in power — not that he could have relied on their help even if he had asked. Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a letter to colleagues that he wants to work with Republicans, but he was unwilling to provide the votes needed to save McCarthy.
“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Jeffries said, announcing the Democratic leadership would vote for the motion to oust the speaker.
Foreign aid in question
There is no obvious GOP successor to McCarthy. Removing the speaker launches the House Republicans into chaos, as they try to find a new leader. It took McCarthy himself 15 rounds in January over multiple days of voting before he secured the support from his colleagues to gain the gavel.
One key McCarthy ally, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), took to social media urging support for “our speaker” and an end to the chaos that has roiled the Republican majority.
Republicans were upset that McCarthy relied on Democratic votes Saturday to approve the temporary measure to keep the government running until Nov. 17. Some would have preferred a government shutdown as they fight for deeper spending cuts.
But Democrats were also upset with McCarthy for walking away from the debt deal that he made with Biden earlier this year that already set federal spending levels, as he emboldened his right flank to push for steep spending reductions.
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