(The Center Square) — The House of Representatives voted 216-210 Tuesday to vacate the speakership, leaving the position open and likely kicking off a marathon of votes to either replace or reinstate California Republican Kevin McCarthy.
A handful of House Republicans joined Democrats to oust McCarthy on Tuesday afternoon. McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that he expects to survive the proceedings. As party leadership, he chose to bring the motion to vacate up quickly for a vote Tuesday afternoon.
“You know if I counted how many times somebody wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago,” he told reporters.
McCarthy only took on the speakership earlier this year after more than a dozen votes while holdout Republicans demanded concessions.
One of those concessions was that a single lawmaker could file a motion to vacate the speakership and force a vote, something Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., started off when filing the motion to vacate late Monday.
Gaetz said McCarthy has broken his promises, pointing in particular to the latest Continuing Resolution to fund the government until mid-November. That deal with House Democrats provided for disaster relief and essentially maintained spending at current levels to buy more time just hours before a government shutdown over the weekend.
McCarthy was able to whittle down the lawmakers who voted against him last time around to get the votes he needed to become speaker, and he may be able to do it again unless another strong Republican successfully challenges him. Currently, there is no obvious choice to replace McCarthy.
“I think Matt has planned this all along,” McCarthy told reporters. “It didn’t matter what transpired. He would’ve done it if we were in shutdown or not. I firmly believe it is the right decision to keep government open, to make sure our military is still paid, our border agents are still paid, and if that makes a challenge based upon whether or not I should be speaker, I’ll take that fight.”
Gaetz warned over the weekend that he would file the motion to vacate. He has demanded answers about an alleged side deal he says McCarthy made with the White House over more Ukraine funding, a sticking point and red line for some conservative Republicans who are unwilling to send the large sums overseas any longer.
“I rise to raise a question,” Gaetz said from the House floor Monday. “What was the secret side deal on Ukraine? House Democrats and President Biden have said that as Speaker McCarthy was asking Republicans to vote for a Continuing Resolution to take up the plus-up Ukraine money, that the speaker of the House was actually cutting a side deal to bring Ukraine legislation to this floor with President Biden and House Democrats.”
As The Center Square previously reported, Gaetz and other Republicans have pushed for passing all 12 appropriations bills in the traditional procedure instead of repeated Continuing Resolutions with topline numbers decided by a handful of members.
But McCarthy says certain Republicans have slowed the appropriations process so that Congress did not meet the government shutdown deadline in time. Lawmakers passed several of those appropriations in the House already, though not enough to fully fund the government. Several were passed at the last minute last week before the shutdown.
Now, the House must continue to hold votes for a new speaker with either McCarthy being reinstated or another taking his place all as the next shutdown deadline draws nearer.
“I have enough Republicans where at this point next week one of two things will happen: Kevin McCarthy won’t be the speaker of the House or he will be the speaker of the House working at the pleasure of the Democrats,” Gaetz told reporters Monday evening.