McCarthy ousted as Speaker. Now what?

I watched C-Span today as the House of Representatives voted twice on the issue of whether Kevin McCarthy should retain his job as speaker. The House is currently split 221-212 (with two seats vacant) so if everyone is present, a majority will consist of 217 votes. Since Republicans have just 221 votes, McCarthy could not prevail if more than four Republicans defected, unless Democrats voted in favor or simply voted ‘present’.

The process was triggered by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz filing a motion to vacate. The first vote was on a resolution by McCarthy supporters to table Gaetz’s motion. If it passed, that meant that McCarthy’s job was saved. It lost by a vote of 218-208, with 11 Republicans joining with Democrats to defeat it. The next vote was on Gaetz’s motion to vacate and that carried by 216-210. The Democrats presented a solid front and, apart from some absences, they all voted against McCarthy on both issues. There had been some reports that McCarthy allies had been begging some Democrats to vote their way but clearly that effort failed.

Three of the Republicans who voted with Gaetz on the effort to table the motion, switched their votes on the second vote and voted to keep McCarthy as speaker. Their reasons were not clear, other than perhaps they just wanted a clean vote on the issue rather than a procedural maneuver.

McCarthy has only himself to blame for his short tenure as speaker and ignominious exit. Where Democrats and his Republican critics were agreed was that he was feckless, unprincipled, and untrustworthy. Given that record, none of his critics were confident that he would uphold any deal that he might offer in order to keep his job. The list of Democratic criticisms of McCarthy that infuriated them was long.

*McCarthy didn’t vote to certify the election on Jan. 6, 2021. The attack on the U.S. Capitol is still raw on Capitol Hill, and Democrats will never forgive McCarthy for voting against certification after the mob was cleared from the building. 

*McCarthy said former president Donald Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 riot — and then, a few weeks later, traveled to Mar-a-Lago and took an infamous picture with Trump with their thumbs up. Democrats are still furious about the incident, which helped revive Trump politically and whitewash the severity of his role on Jan. 6. 

*McCarthy worked against the creation of the Jan. 6 select committee, which Democrats viewed as an attempt to protect Trump. 

*McCarthy gave the Jan. 6 security footage to since-fired television host Tucker Carlson without releasing it to news outlets. 

*McCarthy delivered votes for the Cares Act — a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in 2020 and signed by Trump — and later became highly critical of pandemic relief legislation.

*He worked with Democrats to help put together the microchips manufacturing bill last year and then whipped his party to vote against it.

*McCarthy backed out of a spending agreement he made with President Biden as part of a deal to lift the debt limit less than two weeks after Biden signed the law in an attempt to placate the furious conservatives in his conference. Democrats on the House floor on Saturday chanted, “Keep your word!”

*McCarthy said in August that he would hold a vote on the House floor to open an impeachment inquiry against Biden. In September, on the first day back from summer recess, McCarthy opened an impeachment inquiry and did not hold such a vote. 

*On Saturday morning, McCarthy didn’t give lawmakers 72 hours to read the short-term spending bill to keep the government open despite House rules. Republicans argued that it was an amendment and not a full bill so the 72-hour rule didn’t apply. But Democrats were given just minutes to read it and vote on it despite asking Republican leadership for more time. (Democrats deployed stalling tactics to get about two hours to read and discuss the bill.)

*On Sunday, McCarthy went on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and charged Democrats with wanting a shutdown. That infuriated Democrats, who voted nearly unanimously for the government spending bill when fewer than half of Republicans did.

Is it any wonder that none of them came to his aid? McCarthy is a prime example that even in the cutthroat world of politics, your credibility is important if you want to get things done. He seemed to be willing to do anything for short term gain, even if it meant abandoning commitments and erstwhile allies. He also just did not seem to be a very smart strategist, with his first major error being his willingness to give away everything to the extremists in his party in order to get their support to become speaker. That showed that he was weak and pliable and could be pushed around, never a good look for a political leader.

While people tend to despise McCarthy, it seems like pretty much everyone in Congress hates Matt Gaetz with a passion. But since he has now vaulted into the position of being the person who dethroned their leader, Republicans will have to decide what to to do about him in the ensuing leadership battle. They may need him and his small coterie of allies to get someone elected as speaker but the new candidate may be wary of doing what McCarthy did, and giving them too much power in order to get their votes.


  1. says

    Apparently the Democrats also watched a video of him bashing them before they voted. Not the best way to rally even tenuous support.

    It’s going to be… interesting… to see who the Republicans put up for speaker next. The only person I can think of that might get in on the first vote is SSAT. When his name was first floated as a strategy I was saying there’s no way he would have wanted it because his ego is too big and the job requires work, but if he sees this as helping to keep him out of jail, he might be willing to do it.

  2. John Morales says

    Kinda hard to predict what some party that does not know what it’s doing (never mind what it should do) will do.

  3. Steve Morrison says

    At the recent Minnesota State Fair, I saw a T-shirt for sale which simply read:


    That sums up so much about recent U.S. politics.

  4. JM says

    The funny thing about the situation is that McCarthy could potentially be voted back in. Remember that almost nobody wanted the job last time and the situation is just worse now. If McCarthy puts his name up as a candidate he could win after a couple of deadlock rounds and people just give up and vote for him for lack of another viable candidate. It could also happen if this continues for a while and ends up close to the 45 day limit of the budget extension, where Democrats might start voting for McCarthy just so they can get on to the more important issue.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    Politicians are a disgustingly self-serving pack of vermin, but some of them hold on to at least a shred of concern for the people they are supposed to represent, but AFAICT, not a single Republican politician gives a flying fuck for anyone but themselves and the billionaires who fund them. Yes, that slimeball from New Jersey is a Democrat, but lots of other Democrats want him to resign. I see nothing similar on the Republican side.

  6. Holms says

    Where Democrats and his Republican critics were agreed was that he was feckless, unprincipled, and untrustworthy. Given that record, none of his critics were confident that he would uphold any deal that he might offer in order to keep his job.

    I’m sure the next Republican will be none of those things!

  7. birgerjohansson says

    Just for laughs, the Democrats should help vote McCarthy back in and then help Gaetz vote him out again.

    Make it absolutely clear to the voters how disorganised the party formerly known as Republican has become.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    @ 7
    Do like in the Simpsons, where the cruel patrons of Moe’s tavern make the penniless Homer imitate a dog before they give him a beer. Just substitute the position of ‘speaker’ for ‘beer’.

  9. steve oberski says

    If the Democrats continue to play their cards right we could see a Democrat speaker of the house.

    Just need a few (relatively) sane Republicans who are tired of this shit show.

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