DemDaily: GOP House of Cards Crumbles

October 4, 2023

"The Office of the Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby vacant."

The proclamation, issued at 4:46pm Tuesday, marked the end of Kevin McCarthy's brief turn with the gavel -- and the first time in US history that a Speaker has been ousted.

The final 216-210 vote came after hours of heated debate -- not between Democrats and Republican, but in a very public showdown between two factions of the Speaker's own caucus.

McCarthy's reign ended as it started -- in controversy and division -- at the hands of the ultra-right insurrectionist members of the GOP House Freedom Caucus, led by Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL), who have wielded control over McCarthy's tenure from day one.

The blame for his demise, however, lies with McCarthy himself. After a four-day standoff with the same MAGA bloc in January, including an historic 15 rounds of voting, McCarthy sold his soul -- and that of the House -- by giving in to extreme concessions to become Speaker of the 118th Congress.

Among those was an unprecedented change to the rules for a "motion to vacate," or remove, the Speaker of the House -- which previously required the support of at least half of the majority party to trigger a vote. Under the new rule, a single rank-and-file lawmaker from either party can force a vote to oust the Speaker, which requires a simple majority of Congress to pass.

In retribution for compromises McCarthy made to avoid a government shutdown last week, Gaetz filed the motion to vacate on Monday and led the debate Tuesday, countered by Congressman Tom Cole (OK) who represented the larger group of moderate, pro-McCarthy Republicans.

The US House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans, with 222 seats to Democrats' 213.

All 208 Democrats present, who genially watched their counterparts berate each other on national television, voted for the motion to vacate McCarthy -- who reneged on a budget deal he struck with President Biden in June.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) criticized Republicans for falling into "chaos, dysfunction and extremism" Tuesday, and for empowering "right-wing extremists" and kowtowing to their "harsh demands."

In the end, eight hardline Republicans voted with the Democrats to put the final nail in McCarthy's coffin, including Gaetz, Andy Biggs (AZ), Ken Buck (CO), Tim Burchett (TN), Eli Crane (AZ), Bob Good (VA), Nancy Mace (SC) and Matt Rosendale (MT).

At McCarthy's suggestion, GOP Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC) was named interim Speaker pro tempore until a permanent successor can be elected. The House has recessed until next week when a Speaker candidate forum will be held.

The top candidates to succeed McCarthy are Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH), both of whom announced they were running today.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) tweeted her support for former President Donald Trump as a candidate.

DemList will keep you informed.

Related: DemDaily: Conceding Congress 1/10/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: US House, Slate, Axios, CNN, Washington Post

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