On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to remove California Republican Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. The House voted 216-210 to oust McCarthy, with a handful of conservatives joining Democrats to remove him. Seven members were absent.
This is the first time in US history that a House Speaker has been voted out of office. The unprecedented vote came with McCarthy having had less than nine months on the job. The California Republican said that he would not run for the job again. Here is what this means and what happens next.
What Led To McCarthy Being Voted Out?
Following through on a threat he made last week to seize the gavel from the California Republican as the possibility of a shutdown loomed, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz took action Monday night to compel a vote on a resolution to vacate the office of the Speaker. He alleged that McCarthy had betrayed the Republican Party by working towards a compromise deal with Democrats to avoid a shutdown.
While other speakers have resigned throughout history after losing the support of their party, McCarthy is the first Speaker to be removed from office by a vote of the House in the middle of a congressional term.
Who’s In Charge Now?
Patrick McHenry, a Republican congressman, has been appointed temporary Speaker or speaker pro tempore. The North Carolina Republican was chosen from a list of members the Speaker must maintain in case a chair becomes vacant.
When McCarthy was initially elected Speaker in January, he sent the House clerk that confidential list. Additionally, although McHenry can hold the temporary position indefinitely, he only has such powers deemed “necessary and appropriate” to elect a speaker per the House’s rules.
McHenry won’t be able to introduce or remove legislation from the table. He also does not have the power to issue subpoenas or sign off on any other official House business that would require the approval of the Speaker.
The House is in recess until both parties can agree on a course of action.
Why Does It Matter?
The Speaker runs the chamber and is second in line for the presidency. There will be a void at the top of the US government for at least a week. In the upcoming weeks, the House must also deal with vital matters like passing an annual budget if it wants to prevent a government shutdown. The House is unable to move legislation forward without a speaker.