In a historically unprecedented move Tuesday, Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), elected by his colleagues to lead the U.S. House of Representatives as speaker in January, was ousted from his speakership through a motion to vacate.
Republicans took control of the House at the beginning of 2023 by a slim 222-213 majority, and it took 14 votes to finally get McCarthy elected as speaker after many concessions were made. One of those concessions was to reinstate a rule allowing for a single member of the House to make a motion to vacate the speakership at any time and force a vote of the full legislative body.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) made the motion to vacate the speakership on Tuesday, which was one of the final votes McCarthy needed to initially be elected speaker. Seven other Republicans joined Gaetz in voting against the former Speaker, citing frustrations with McCarthy for working with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.
McCarthy has said he will not seek the speakership again.
Kentucky delegation weighs in
Following the historic event, Kentucky’s five GOP congressmen expressed support for McCarthy and/or disappointment in the process to remove their republican ally.
“Disunity is the enemy of the conservative cause, and today is evidence of the fact that we have now given our majority to (Democratic House Minority leader) Hakeem Jeffries, because we have refused to stay unified,” Congressman Andy Barr, of Kentucky’s 6th District, told FOX News. “The way to avoid an omnibus, the way to avoid getting jammed, the way to avoid an open border is unity in the party, not eight rogue members joining with Democrats.”
“This is something that is very unfortunate, and I think will come back to bite. We have a speaker that has significantly improved the process from previous speakers,” said Congressman James Comer, who represents Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday.
“This was more about personality and political grudges than the actual performance. It’s very difficult to govern. It’s very difficult to get 218 votes when you have people with very diverse ideologies, but I think McCarthy was doing as well as could be expected. And I just strongly disagree with the vote today to remove him,” Comer said.
“The House made a monumental mistake by ousting Speaker McCarthy,” tweeted Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky’s 5th District. “He showed immense courage and leadership by negotiating a deal to avoid a government shutdown, even at the risk of losing his gavel. I am grateful for his service.”
Congressman Thomas Massie, of Kentucky’s 4th District, said in a floor speech supporting McCarthy that Gaetz’s motion was a “terrible idea.”
“I can tell you that this chamber has been run better, more conservatively and more transparently under Mr. McCarthy than any other speaker that I have served under,” Massie said.
Brett Guthrie, who represents Kentucky’s 2nd Congressional district, also voted against the motion to vacate and tweeted support for McCarthy.
The only member of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation to support the motion to vacate was Kentucky’s only Democratic House member, Morgan McGarvey, of the 3rd district in Louisville.
“McCarthy created this problem by empowering the extremists in his conference, making promises he did not intend to keep, and changing the rules to allow any member of the majority to remove the speaker,” McGarvey said. “McCarthy isn’t trusted in our caucus either, as shown by the fact he entered a deal on spending limits this May to avoid defaulting on our debt, only to renege four months later as we tried to avoid a government shutdown. We are only as good as our word.”
After Tuesday’s 216-210 ouster vote, Republican Representative Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy ally, was appointed acting speaker for a very limited time – up to three legislative days in this case.
It is unclear when the House will hold a vote to elect its next speaker, especially given the division among the majority party. Democrats likely will back Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffires again, but will still fall short of the majority of votes needed.
Republican House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, and GOP House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, of Ohio, have both announced bids to run for the speakership at this point, with potentially more to follow.