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Now-former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was stripped of his gavel on Tuesday afternoon via roll-call vote on Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) motion to vacate the chair, pursuant to rules agreed to by McCarthy in order to clinch victory in his drawn-out race to become speaker in January.
By a vote of 216 to 210, the historic motion prevailed as presiding Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) declared “the resolution is adopted…the office of Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant.”
The Republicans joining Gaetz in his motion to vacate were Reps. Biggs (AZ), Buck (CO), Burchett (TN), Crane (AZ), Good (VA), Mace (SC), Rosendale (MT)
Now, the House must return to the process that dragged on for five days in January through more than one dozen ballots as House Republicans struggled to elect a speaker — and it remains unclear who will emerge from the GOP conference to seek the now-vacated seat of the Speaker of the House or which members will remain in other House GOP leadership positions. For now, the only thing the House can work on is choosing its next speaker.
An hour of debate on Gaetz’s motion to vacate saw the Florida Republican argue his case from the Democrat side of the House chamber, surrounded by the GOP’s opposition with whom Gaetz worked to remove McCarthy as speaker, calling the speaker “chaos” despite the fact that Gaetz’s motion to vacate has wrought a good measure of chaos itself.
Sounding quite like the Democrats surrounding him, Gaetz slammed the House GOP’s oversight investigations as “failure theater.”
Back on the pro-McCarthy GOP side of the chamber, House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan defended Speaker McCarthy. “He has kept his word, and I think we should keep him,” Jordan said.
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and others praised the speaker for being a “tireless” and “happy warrior.”
Another House Republican, Garrett Graves (R-LA) called out Gaetz for using his campaign against McCarthy to boost his fundraising efforts.
Earlier on Tuesday, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told House Democrats on to use their votes to clear any hurdles ahead of the motion to vacate question and then join insurgent House Republicans in their quest to boot McCarthy from leadership.
“We confront a serious, solemn and sober moment,” Jeffries wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter to House lawmakers. “The vote that the House will cast this week in connection with a Motion to Vacate the Chair is not about any one individual. Our responsibility as Members of Congress relates to the Constitution, the principle of good governance and the people we are privileged to serve,” Jeffries added. “Nothing more, and nothing less.”
“In that regard, House Democrats remain willing to find common ground on an enlightened path forward,” Jeffries’ letter continued. “Unfortunately, our extreme Republican colleagues have shown no willingness to do the same. It is now the responsibility of the GOP member to end the House Republican Civil War,” wrote Jeffries. “Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair.”
Whatever one thinks of McCarthy or Gaetz, the scene that unfolded in the House chamber on Tuesday as a result of Gaetz’s motion to vacate the chair handed a messaging and strategic win to Democrats by freezing the House’s work toward responsibly funding the government and the vital progress being made by House committees in their work to hold the Biden administration accountable for its disastrous policies and to investigate the Biden family’s businesses.
Gaetz may be feeling proud of himself, but there’s little doubt that President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Democrats are even more thrilled with his efforts.