Today was a momentous day that should go down in infamy for the House of Representatives, as a predicted outcome of the Republican Party's narrow hold on the chamber has come to pass.
After making his deal with the devils in a far-right contingent of the House earlier this year, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has now been removed from his post in a historic event — no other House Speaker has ever lost their job in this way, and the only other vote ever taken to remove a speaker happened over 100 years ago, in 1910.
Led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, eight Republican congresspeople joined Democrats in voting to oust McCarthy in a 216-210 vote, as The Hill reports. Those Republicans were Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Bob Good (Va.), Nancy Mace (S.C.) and Matt Rosendale (Mont.).
"It’s to the benefit of this country that we have a better speaker of the House than Kevin McCarthy," Gaetz said to reporters following the vote, per the New York Times. "Kevin McCarthy couldn’t keep his word."
It had briefly been suggested that Democrats would rally to save McCarthy from this fate, but House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) sent out a message to his caucus Tuesday morning urging support for McCarthy's ouster. Democrats were particularly incensed, reportedly, after McCarthy went on TV over the weekend to blame Democrats for the narrowly averted shutdown of the federal government — which had clearly been caused by far-right Republicans and McCarthy's inability to appease them.
"House Democrats remain willing to find common ground on an enlightened path forward," Jeffries told colleagues in his note. "Unfortunately, our extreme Republican colleagues have shown no willingness to do the same. It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War. Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair."
No clear successor to McCarthy has emerged — and it could be an especially painful couple of weeks for House members after that 15-vote debacle in January which ended with McCarthy winning the speakership on extremely compromised terms. The deal he made with Gaetz and others back then allowed for any one of them to bring a motion to vacate to the House floor at any time, and that is what they did following McCarthy's effort to compromise with Democrats and keep the government open on Saturday.
"He put his political neck on the line knowing this day was coming,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a McCarthy ally, speaking to his colleagues before today's vote. "Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos, because that’s where we’re headed if we vacate the speakership."
Of course, the House has been in chaos long before today, and McCarthy's ouster is just the latest symptom of a very broken Republican Party.
In a statement Tuesday morning, per the Times, McCarthy himself said, "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."
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a McCarthy ally, will now become Speaker pro tempore, and his only powers will be to preside over votes to elect a new Speaker.
Meanwhile, in the old Senate chamber in the Capitol building, newly appointed Senator Laphonza Butler was sworn in Tuesday to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein. She was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, who just a few years ago was the second-only Black woman to serve in the Senate's history. And Butler becomes the first openly gay Black woman in the chamber.
As the Chronicle notes, "At 44, she is the fifth-youngest member of a body where the average age was 64 prior to her entrance." Also, she was seen speaking briefly with Senator Alex Padilla, and the Chronicle writes that today marks "the first time both of California’s senators were not white."
Butler was also sworn in to the Congressional Black Caucus by several members including Rep. Barbara Lee — who is running for the same senate seat in 2024. It remains an unknown whether Butler may have agreed to a backroom deal not to run next year — but Newsom's camp has said they made no such deal and Butler is free to run against the existing candidates.
Top image: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on November 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. McCarthy said that his caucus would like to be passing legislation but are unable to do so because the Democrats have focused their efforts on impeaching President Donald Trump. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)