04 October 2023

Kevin McCarthy rules out running again after being ousted as speaker

04 October 2023

Kevin McCarthy will not run again after becoming the first speaker of the House of Representatives to be forced out of office.

Mr McCarthy told politicians he would put the gavel up for grabs after being forced out of his role by a contingent of hard-right conservatives.

He told a press conference: “I may have lost this vote today, but as I walk out of this chamber I feel fortunate to have served. I wouldn’t change a thing”.

Republican Matt Gaetz, of Florida, orchestrated the rare vote on the obscure “motion to vacate” and pushed ahead swiftly into a dramatic afternoon roll call.

In the press conference Mr McCarthy said: “Look, you all know Matt Gaetz. You know it was personal, it had nothing to do about spending, everything he accused somebody of he was doing.

“It all was about getting attention from you (the media).”

While Mr McCarthy enjoyed support from most Republicans in his slim majority, eight Republican detractors — many of the same hard-right holdouts who tried to stop him from becoming speaker in January — essentially forced him out with a 216-210 vote.

Patrick McHenry was named speaker pro tempore after being picked from a list the speaker is required to keep of potential replacements and will serve with limited powers until a replacement is chosen.

He declared the House in recess until both parties can decide on a path forward.

With Mr McCarthy out of the running, there is no obvious successor to lead the slim House Republican majority.

Majority leader Steve Scalise or whip Tim Emmer have been mentioned as possible consensus candidates.

The vote followed a floor debate, unseen in modern times, and Republicans argued publicly among themselves for more than an hour.

“It’s a sad day,”  Tom Cole of Oklahoma said as debate got underway, urging his colleagues not to plunge the House Republican majority “into chaos”.

But Mr Gaetz shot back: “Chaos is Speaker McCarthy”.

As the fiery debate dragged on, many of the complaints against the speaker revolved around his truthfulness and his ability to keep the promises he has made.

Almost alone, Mr Gaetz led his side of the floor debate, criticising the debt deal Mr McCarthy made with President Joe Biden and the vote to prevent a government shutdown, which conservatives opposed as they demanded steeper spending cuts.

But a long line of Mr McCarthy supporters stood up for him, including Jim Jordan, Ohio, a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, who said, “He has kept his word”.

Garret Graves, waved his mobile phone, saying it was “disgusting” that hard-right colleagues were fundraising off the move in text messages seeking donations.

Mr McCarthy, of California, insisted he would not cut a deal with Democrats to remain in power — not that he could have relied on their help even if he had asked.

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