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American Coup D'état: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ousted

Washington, D.C

October 4th, 2023: 1PM EDT

Hiram Sanabria, other editors




In a historic majority vote, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made history as the first to be removed from office in a majority vote. The spark to the flame? A bipartisan agreement with Democrats to avert a Government shutdown.

Kevin McCarthy speaking during a press conference.

TERMS TO KNOW

  • H.R.5860 - The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2024 and Other Extensions Act

  • Motion to vacate or table

  • Speaker of the House

  • House Caucus


BACKGROUND

The historic overthrow of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy materialized due to Republican Representative Matt Gaetz issuing a Motion to vacate on October 2nd, a privileged motion under House Rule 9, meaning it goes to the top of the list of priorities on the House floor. The next day, a motion to kill (table) Gaetz’s proposal failed in a 218-2o8 vote, with voting mostly along party lines except for Gaetz and his wing of 8 Republican supporters.


See how each House member voted on the bill to avert a Government shutdown here.


Already in a prolonged civil war across the country, the move to oust McCarthy has further divided the Republican party. Five of the eight other Conservative Republican Representatives who voted to oust McCarthy, including Matt Gaetz, are members of the House Freedom Caucus.


  • Andy Biggs (Arizona)

  • Ken Buck (Colorado)

  • Tim Burchett (Tennessee)

  • Eli Crane (Arizona)

  • Matt Gaetz (Florida)

  • Bob Good (Virginia)

  • Nancy Mace (South Carolina)

  • Matt Rosendale (Montana)

Bolded names are indicative of Freedom Caucus members. Read more here about House caucuses.


McCarthy announced he would not be running again for Speaker of the House.



Why was McCarthy removed from Office?


When Republicans took control of the House in January 2023, while struggling to acquire a consensus to make him Speaker, McCarthy managed to finally secure the position in large part by agreeing to meet the terms of staunch Republicans withholding their support (led by Gaetz) to change the rules regarding how the House can motion for a proposal to vacate the speaker– which is the procedure to remove its speaker.


Under House Rule 9, a motion to vote to vacate the Speaker’s chair is considered privileged, meaning that once introduced to the floor, it becomes top on the list of priorities and must be voted on within two legislative days of being motioned. In 2019, at the start of the 116th Congress, the rules were adjusted not to allow a single Representative’s motion to vacate from qualifying as a privileged matter without being done on behalf of an entire party or caucus.

As a result of McCarthy’s concessions to Gaetz and his followers, the aforementioned rule was reversed in the 2023 118th Congress, allowing any member's motion for a vote to vacate the speaker’s chair to become a priority, the very rule that crucially led to McCarthy’s removal in October 2023.



After meeting this concession, as well as numerous others, McCarthy was finally elected as speaker in January 2023 after 15 rounds of voting for four days, the longest since before the American Civil War. McCarthy was voted in because he would continue making concessions to both sides of the aisle - viewed as a sign of weak leadership, too easy to compromise and meet the opposition’s concessions. On both sides of the Aisle, Democrat and Republican, McCarthy has been accused of being untrustworthy, unreliable, and too quick to compromise on key issues rather than holding firm to strong party positions. For example, Kevin McCarthy initially supported Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 Presidential Election was fraudulent as one of the 139 Republicans who voted to overturn the election results. While participating in an interview on Fox News, McCarthy said: “President Trump won this election. So everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet.” McCarthy later apologized for the January 6th Insurrection, reversing his support for Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results.



On the other hand, only months after working across Bipartisan lines to end the 2023 Debt Ceiling Crisis, McCarthy commenced an impeachment proceeding/ inquiry against President Joe Biden to investigate “... allegations of abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption, and they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives”, as per McCarthy. This inevitably weakened Democrats’ trust in McCarthy, as the inquiry was viewed mainly as an attempt to appease House Conservatives.

This inevitably weakened Democrats’ trust in McCarthy, as the inquiry was viewed mainly as an attempt to appease House Conservatives. This mistrust in McCarthy by not just House Republicans but also Democrats is shown during a Forbes Breaking interview with Democratic House Representative Adam Schiff. Rep. Schiff claimed that McCarthy is too quick to concede to bipartisan demands, angering one side or the other and eventually losing both side's trust.


Read more here about the 2021 debt ceiling.


The Catalyst

In short, McCarthy’s promises and concessions to both sides have angered the other and proven to be the inevitable catalyst for his removal. Most crucially, Matt Gaetz and other far-right Republicans are angered by McCarthy working across bipartisan lines with Democrats to pass H.R.5860 - The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2024 and Other Extensions Act.


H.R.5680 is a short-term spending deal passed on September 30th, just hours before the deadline, to avert a partial government shutdown until November 17th, 2023, extending Government operations for 45 days. Gaetz claims that to pass H.R.5860, McCarthy treacherously created a secret deal with Democrats promising to allow future votes regarding sending billions of dollars to Ukraine in return for Democratic support – A claim McCarthy denies. On top of this, earlier this year, McCarthy again worked across the aisle with Democrats to achieve the bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, which brought the United States debt-ceiling crisis to an end. (Read more here about the 2023 U.S. Debt Ceiling Crisis.) According to Gaetz, McCarthy’s decision to use Democratic support to pass legislation is an act of treason. For these reasons, Gaetz told reporters after the vote: “Kevin McCarthy is a creature of the swamp. He has risen to power by collecting special interest money and redistributing that money in exchange for favors. We are breaking the fever now…”



Discussion questions:

  1. How would this situation have looked had House Rule 9 not been adjusted?

  2. What steps could McCarthy have taken to convince House Democrats to save his spokesmanship?

  3. Can the House find a new Speaker before the November deadline of the Appropriations Act (H.R.5860)?


EFFECTS


Over the past 255+ consecutive years of American Government function and history, never once has the Speaker of the House been voted out. While the future remains uncertain, here is what you need to know about what is certain to come:


  1. North Carolina Representative Patrick McHenry has taken the position of Speaker pro tempore, the interim speaker handpicked by McCarthy in the case of his death or removal. He will retain this position until a new House Speaker is selected.

  2. House Republicans will continue debate, discussions, and negotiations to choose a nominee in what will likely be a lengthy and challenging process to elect the Speaker on the Floor.

  3. Republicans planned to meet on October 10th to discuss possible successors, with a vote on a new speaker scheduled for October 11th.

  4. The Speaker of the House does not need to be a member of the House. However, no nominee who isn’t a sitting member of Congress has ever been selected for the position in history.

  5. Gaetz and his allies, as well as the Democratic Caucus, will likely demand significant concessions in exchange for supporting a new Republican speaker.

  6. The process to reach a consensus and elect a new House Speaker is at risk of exceeding the November deadline set by the Appropriations Act (H.R.5860).


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