U.S. House of Representatives Removes Speaker Kevin McCarthy

A period of uncertainty and predictable chaos begins the absence of a leader to fill the third most powerful political position in the country.

Crisis accomplished. With a capital C. An unprecedented and embarrassing event in United States history. The House of Representatives voted to remove its speaker, California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who faced a vote to vacate his position by the ultra-conservative wing of his party led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. This extraordinary move opens a period of uncertainty and foreseeable chaos given the absence of a leader to fill the third most powerful political position in the country after the president and vice president.

McCarthy lasted 269 days in office, a disastrous record both for him personally and for his Republican Party, which will now have to navigate the complex process of replacing him. During a press conference on Capitol Hill, McCarthy denied that he would see the position again, saying, “I will not run for speaker again … I hope you realize that every day, I did the job regardless of whether you underestimated me or not. I wanted to do it with a smile.” For now, North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy ally, will assume the job of interim speaker. McHenry’s name appeared on a list provided by McCarthy in case the motion against him succeeded.

McCarthy’s surprising downfall started taking shape over the weekend after he reached an agreement with Democrats to avert a government shutdown. Gaetz and company were unable to overlook the betrayal, dubbing the agreement as “horrible” and as one of the great “sins” of McCarthy’s nine months in office. During the debate before the final vote, Gaetz called McCarthy a “creature of the swamp,” saying McCarthy “[rose] to power by collecting special interest money and redistributing that money in exchange for favors.”

A motion to vacate was approved Monday night and put to a vote, leaving McCarthy without any hope of saving his job. In the final round, the vote was 216 to 210 to oust the Republican leader. The eight representatives among the extreme conservative ranks included Ken Buck from Colorado, Tim Burchett from Tennessee, Eli Crane from Arizona, Bob Good from Virginia, Nancy Mace from South Carolina and Matt Rosendale from Montana.

The success of this Republican rebellion will surely have serious political implications. A vacant speakership in the House of Representatives will paralyze all activities until a new speaker is elected, a process that is bogged down from the start given the internal crisis that the Republicans — who have a narrow majority in the House — are facing. There are still 45 days to go before the approved reprieve to prevent a government shutdown expires.

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