The vote orchestrated by a group of far-right lawmakers leaves the House without leadership. The speaker was unable to manage a bitter power struggle within the Republican Party.
The House on Tuesday voted to oust Kevin McCarthy from the speakership, a move without precedent in modern history that left the chamber without a leader and plunged it into chaos.
Democrats joined with a small group of hard-liners in Mr. McCarthy’s own party to strip the California Republican of the speaker’s gavel in a 216 to 210 vote. His removal underscored the bitter Republican divisions that have festered all year, and capped an epic power struggle between Mr. McCarthy and members of a far-right faction who tried to block his ascent to the speakership in January. They have tormented him ever since, trying to thwart his efforts to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt and ultimately rebelling over his decision over the weekend to turn to Democrats for help to keep the government open.
A tense scene played out on the floor as lawmakers voted to oust the speaker the same way they vote to elect one: by sitting on the House floor and rising one by one in an alphabetical roll call by conducted by the clerk.
A vacancy in the speaker’s chair essentially paralyzes the House until a successor is chosen, according to multiple procedural experts. That promises to incite another potentially messy speaker election at a time when Congress has just over 40 days to avert a government shutdown.
Here’s what else to know:
- The two parties are holding party meetings to decide what to do next. Both will have to choose nominees for speaker. It is unclear whether Mr. McCarthy will try to win back his post. It takes a majority of Republicans in their conference to put forward a nominee, who must then win a majority of the votes in House chamber to take the gavel.
- There is no clear replacement for Mr. McCarthy. “I think there’s plenty of people who can step up and do the job,” said Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee, one of the rebels who voted to push Mr. McCarthy out, adding that he did not know who he had in mind for the job instead.
- Ahead of the vote, a surreal Republican-against-Republican debate unfolded on the House floor. Members of the hard-right clutch of rebels disparaged their own speaker and verbally sparred with Mr. McCarthy’s defenders, who repeatedly accused the hard-liners of sowing disarray to advance their own political interests and hoard attention. Democrats sat and watched silently.“He put his political neck on the line knowing this day was coming,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and a McCarthy ally. “Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos,” Mr. Cole implored the speaker’s detractors, “because that’s where we’re headed if we vacate the speakership.”
- Mr. McCarthy’s detractors savaged him for what they characterized as a failure to wring steeper spending cuts out of the Biden administration and a lack of leadership. “Chaos is Speaker McCarthy,” Mr. Gaetz declared. “Chaos is somebody who we cannot trust with their word.”
- Democrats had wrestled in recent days with whether to help Mr. McCarthy survive, or at least to stay out of the effort to oust him. But in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday morning, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, instructed fellow Democrats not to do so, citing Republicans’ “unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism.” Democrats did not participate in the floor debate.
- Mr. McCarthy, an inveterate optimist who prides himself on never giving up, stayed confident until the end about his ability to survive. “If you throw a speaker out that has 99 percent of their conference, that kept government open and paid the troops, I think we’re in a really bad place for how we’re going to run Congress,” he said on Tuesday morning.
- The proceedings that played out on Tuesday have taken place only once before in the House of Representatives, in 1910. Back then, progressive Republicans tried to remove then-Speaker Joseph Cannon, a conservative known as “Uncle Joe,” for refusing to bring their priorities to the floor for a vote. He survived that vote, but was weakened as a result. Mr. McCarthy is the first to be removed.
Luke Broadwater, Carl Hulse, Kayla Guo, Karoun Demirjian, Annie Karniand Robert Jimison contributed reporting.