The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to remove Republican Kevin McCarthy from office as its speaker with 216 votes in favor and 210 votes against, marking the first time in U.S. history that a speaker of the House is removed from office.
The California Republican lost control of the process after a first round of voting behind closed doors Tuesday in which lawmakers decided to move forward with an effort by far-right Republicans to remove him as their president.
The process was followed by a heated debate in the House, where ultraconservative Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., an ally of Donald Trump, said the vote to oust McCarthy should not be considered "chaos" in Congress.
It was Gaetz who filed the so-called "motion to dismiss" McCarthy on Monday, just before the end of the night's session, and after threatening for months to use the procedural tool. Those threats escalated over the weekend after McCarthy leaned on Democrats to get the votes needed to keep the federal government open.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Capitol Hill on Oct. 3, 2023.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
After a majority of the House voted to adopt Gaetz's resolution, the office of House speaker would be declared vacant. However, this would not immediately trigger a new leader election because of a succession slate McCarthy submitted to the House clerk in January. That list is not public.
Since 2003, House rules have required this measure, stipulating that the next person on that list "shall act as president pro tempore until the election of a president or permanent leader." So whoever is first on McCarthy's list will take over as leader in an interim capacity.
This would be a different situation than in January, when the lower house began a new session and could not initiate any legislative business until a president was elected. Because it was the beginning of a new Congress, the House needed to elect a president to swear in members and approve the package of rules.
The election of a permanent president could be delayed until the House was ready to move forward.