(WASHINGTON) — A showdown on Tuesday with a breakaway faction of his own party saw House Speaker Kevin McCarthy removed as leader of the chamber — a historic development that signals chaos to come on Capitol Hill.
Hard-line Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida led the charge against McCarthy, a fellow conservative. Gaetz introduced a so-called motion to vacate late Monday after criticizing how McCarthy has handled spending and budget fights since Republicans retook majority control of the chamber and claiming McCarthy can’t be trusted.
McCarthy defended his record, including most recently in averting a partial federal government shutdown with Democratic support — calling himself “the adult in the room.” But that view did not persuade eight other members of the GOP who, along with the Democratic minority, voted to remove the speaker for the first time in history.
An interim speaker pro tempore was quickly named but an internal election must be held for a permanent replacement. Until then, one half of Congress, which approves key funding legislation and other bills, has veered into uncharted territory.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Oct 03, 10:17 PM EDT
Pelosi ordered to vacate Capitol office as Speaker McHenry’s first act
In one of Rep. Patrick McHenry’s first moves as speaker pro tempore, he ordered Nancy Pelosi to immediately vacate her hideaway office in the Capitol by Wednesday, sources tell ABC News.
Most lawmakers have offices in the buildings surrounding the Capitol — not in the Capitol itself.
Hideaway offices are private unmarked spaces in the Capitol, typically reserved for members of House leadership. But as a former speaker, Pelosi was allowed to keep one.
Pelosi was informed of this news as she was in San Fransisco attending a memorial service for the late Dianne Feinstein.
In a statement to ABC News, Speaker Emerita Pelosi criticized the move: “With all of the important decisions that the new Republican Leadership must address, which we are all eagerly awaiting, one of the first actions taken by the new Speaker Pro Tempore was to order me to immediately vacate my office in the Capitol. Sadly, because I am in California to mourn the loss of and pay tribute to my dear friend Dianne Feinstein, I am unable to retrieve my belongings at this time.”
Pelosi continued, “This eviction is a sharp departure from tradition. As Speaker, I gave former Speaker Hastert a significantly larger suite of offices for as long as he wished.”
Politico was the first to report.
Oct 03, 8:02 PM EDT
‘My fear is the institution fell today,’ McCarthy says after being toppled
Now-former Speaker McCarthy addressed reporters from Capitol Hill on Tuesday night where he looked back at his years in Republican leadership, touted his record — and struck an optimistic if ambiguous note about his future.
“I believe I can continue to fight,” McCarthy said, while noting that he will not run again for speaker after he lost a historic vote on the motion to vacate earlier in the day.
“My goals have not changed. My ability to fight is just in a different form,” he said, later adding, “I’ll never give up on the American people. That doesn’t mean I have to be speaker.”
McCarthy also swiped at the conservative rebels who ousted him from his role — stressing that they were just 4% of the GOP conference — and claimed that Gaetz was acting out of a personal sense of grievance in pushing him out, which Gaetz denies.
Despite the defeat he suffered from within his own party, McCarthy sounded largely sanguine about his political career.
He contended that the Democratic minority deciding to vote against him had made a “political decision” that undercut the ability of the House to govern.
“My fear is the institution fell today,” he said.
Still, in largely valedictory remarks, he pointed back to work to cut government spending, expand his party’s base and increase their majority in Congress, including by electing more women and minorities.
“I feel fortunate to have served the American people,” he insisted. “I leave the speakership with a sense of pride, accomplishment and, yes, optimism.”
Oct 03, 7:28 PM EDT
Republicans eye speaker election next week as Scalise seems to emerge as early favorite
The House has canceled votes for the remainder of the week, according to Majority Whip Tom Emmer.
GOP sources say that Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry told party members during a Tuesday night conference meeting that the House is expected to recess until Oct. 10 — and the plan is to hold a speaker candidate forum that day and then a vote for a permanent speaker on Oct. 11.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise appears to be emerging from the closed-door conference meeting as the front-runner to replace McCarthy.
Both House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and Emmer indicated they’re not running for speaker.
It’s unclear if Scalise has enough support to succeed, but he spoke to reporters as he walked back to his office.
“We have a lot of work to get done, but I haven’t made any formal announcement,” Scalise, R-La., said.
“Clearly within our conference, we have a very tight majority,” he acknowledged. “Getting things that done is going to be difficult in the tight majority. It’s still will be so no matter who’s going to be the next speaker, the challenges still remain, but I think the opportunity is there to continue moving forward.”
Asked whether he is physically up to the job as speaker as he continues treatment for blood cancer, Scalise said, “I feel great.”
Oct 03, 7:34 PM EDT
McCarthy tells his party that he won’t run again for speaker
In a closed-door meeting on Tuesday night, McCarthy told fellow Republicans that he will not run again for the speakership, per multiple sources in the room.
He also said that when the next vote comes around for another speaker, Republicans should try to elect that person on the first round — and if he had to be the sacrifice, so be it. McCarthy thanked those who supported him.
On his way to the party meeting, McCarthy told ABC News’ John Parkinson, “Life goes on. You never give up.”
Oct 03, 6:53 PM EDT
An analysis of the ‘chaos’ sown by Tuesday’s vote
Ousting McCarthy — a push first launched by Republican hard-line Rep. Matt Gaetz, embraced by seven conservative colleagues and helped along by Democrats who declined to save McCarthy’s job — was a long time coming.
One could blame the debt and spending agreements he cut this year to keep the government open and to keep the country’s credit intact; or the side deals reached to allow him to become speaker in the first place; or the slash-and-burn political styles that have become the new normal of Congress.
But in the end, what happened on Tuesday never happened before because there’s never been a dynamic quite like the one now inside the House Republican conference or inside the GOP writ large.
Oct 03, 6:50 PM EDT
Dems look ahead to next speaker election
In a new statement following the vote to remove McCarthy, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said, “It is our hope that traditional Republicans will walk away from MAGA extremism and join us in partnership for the good of the country.”
Jeffries led his minority in voting against McCarthy along with the eight Republicans who ensured the speaker lost his role.
Separately, out of the White House, Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president is hoping the House will “quickly elect a Speaker” and that he “looks forward to working together with them.”
Oct 03, 6:57 PM EDT
So what is a speaker pro tempore?
Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina, was quickly named as speaker pro tempore of the House on Tuesday after McCarthy was voted out.
What does that title mean? It’s quite simply somebody designated to preside over the House when the speaker is unable to do so.
After Sept. 11, the House adopted a new rule making it possible to have a speaker pro tempore even if the speaker of the House is unable to name one — or the speakership suddenly becomes vacant.
The rule was adopted as a measure to ensure “continuity of government” — so that Congress would not be paralyzed after a terrorist attack. A speaker pro tempore has the power to lead, to pass emergency measures and even a declaration of war.
The position is supposed to be temporary, but there is no explicit limit on how temporary or when a new election must be held to elect a permanent speaker.
But, for now anyway, Republicans are operating on the premise that the House can convene and function even without an elected speaker.
One thing driving the temporary nature of this situation: The speaker of the House is in the line of presidential succession; the speaker pro tempore is not.
Oct 03, 6:03 PM EDT
Republican senators share their outrage at McCarthy’s removal
Senate Republicans are overwhelmingly admonishing their House colleagues for allowing McCarthy’s speakership to be vacated, calling it a “sad day.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said ousting McCarthy was a “disgraceful” move by a small group of House conservatives.
“These insurgents have no plan,” Cornyn said. “And now they’ve created even more chaos and it’s not good for the House, it’s not good for Republicans.”
A visibly miffed Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi agreed: “It stinks, and it’s bad for the country.”
Republicans are the minority party in the Senate. With a much more favorable map on the horizon in 2024, some now worry the dysfunction in the House will be a distraction for voters.
Oct 03, 5:53 PM EDT
Biden not reacting to McCarthy’s ouster
The White House confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that President Joe Biden saw the developments in the House, but the administration is declining to weigh in on congressional politics.
Instead, aides said Biden is focused on governing and they pointed to the announcement earlier Tuesday on drugmakers agreeing to take part in Medicare negotiations.
Oct 03, 5:21 PM EDT
McCarthy silent leaving House chamber, currently meeting with leadership
McCarthy exited the chamber declining to comment after the House voted to remove him.
Several members in GOP leadership are currently meeting inside McCarthy’s office. Republicans are slated to gather behind closed doors on Tuesday evening for a conference meeting.
McCarthy shook his head slightly when the presiding officer slammed the gavel after the roll call vote.
Oct 03, 5:10 PM EDT
Gaetz speaks after victory
Gaetz spoke to reporters outside the Capitol just moments after his motion to vacate succeeded.
“The stages of grief are in progress,” he said.
The Florida Republican floated names for who could become the next speaker. On his list were House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer and Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern.
Gaetz said he will “absolutely not” put himself forward for speakership.
Oct 03, 4:54 PM EDT
The Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy
Eight Republicans voted to take away McCarthy’s gavel.
In addition to Gaetz, who introduced the motion to vacate, the following Republicans voted to oust McCarthy: Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Eli Crane of Arizona, Bob Good of Virginia, Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Matt Rosendale of Arizona.
Every Democrat present also supported the motion to vacate.
Oct 03, 4:53 PM EDT
McHenry named interim speaker pro tempore
In the minutes after the motion to vacate against McCarthy, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., was named as speaker pro tempore, an interim role to lead the chamber until another speaker is elected at a future point.
McHenry is a top McCarthy ally and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
He recessed the House for caucus meetings.
Oct 03, 4:51 PM EDT
House votes to remove McCarthy as speaker — a historic first
In a 45-minute roll call vote, the House moved to oust McCarthy as speaker.
The final vote was 216 to 210 in favor of Gaetz’s motion to vacate, with eight Republicans joining Democrats.
“The office of speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant,” said presiding officer Rep. Steve Womack.
It is the first time in U.S. history that the speaker of the House has been booted from the post, putting the chamber in unprecedented territory.
Oct 03, 4:42 PM EDT
Republican rebels appear to have the votes to remove McCarthy
Republican rebels appear to have enough votes to remove McCarthy as speaker, given that Democrats joined them, though the vote is ongoing.
Oct 03, 4:20 PM EDT
What happens if Gaetz wins — and McCarthy loses?
The House would be in uncharted waters if McCarthy is removed as speaker: A motion to vacate has never been used successfully.
But the chamber wouldn’t be as paralyzed and chaotic as it was in January amid McCarthy’s five-day, 15-ballot vote to win the gavel.
As part of a rule change after 9/11 to support the continuity of government, the speaker is required to deliver to the House clerk an ordered list of members who can act as speaker pro tempore in the event of a vacancy.
The person at the top of McCarthy’s list will serve as interim speaker until a new one is elected.
If the motion to vacate is successful, the chamber could go right to another speaker vote — and McCarthy’s allies could put him forward again to reclaim his post.
But unlike in January, it’s possible that the House could take up other business in the meantime: The chamber has a rules package, and the speaker pro tempore would have the authority to act as speaker until a new one is elected.
Oct 03, 4:06 PM EDT
Vote begins on motion to vacate
A roll call vote is underway on the motion to vacate, which will decide whether McCarthy will keep his gavel.
If successful, it will be a historic moment. The motion to vacate has only been used once before — more than a century ago — and failed.
It would take as few as five Republican defections to oust McCarthy as speaker, if all Democrats vote against him.
Oct 03, 3:55 PM EDT
Scalise, whom Gaetz floated as possible successor, backs McCarthy
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise also stood up to support McCarthy during the debate on the motion to vacate, saying now isn’t the time to stop the progress House Republicans have made.
“When we go back to January, as many people have, we knew that it was going to be a narrow majority,” Scalise said. “We also knew it wasn’t going to be easy. How many of us came here because we thought this job was going to be easy?”
Scalise continued, “One thing we did know is that if we were going to finally start confronting the problems that had been ignored for years and years and years, we had to change the way this place worked. And one thing Speaker McCarthy embraced from Day 1 is to start making those kind of changes to this institution — opening up the process, allowing members to be more engaged, having amendments come to the floor, single-subject bills, doing appropriations bills.”
“Speaker McCarthy has been leading at the top of the level to make sure we have the tools to do our jobs,” he added.
Gaetz said earlier this week he’d support Scalise for speaker and believed other Republicans would, too, telling reporters he thinks “very highly” of the No. 2 House Republican.
Oct 03, 3:38 PM EDT
Jim Jordan calls McCarthy ‘rock solid’
With debate continuing between those backing McCarthy and the minority in the GOP who have joined Gaetz, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said McCarthy deserves to keep his job — calling him “rock solid” on several promises Republicans made when they retook majority control of the chamber.
Jordan pointed to several bills that were passed by the House, including border security legislation and rescinding funding for the IRS. Jordan also touted House oversight activities and defended McCarthy’s actions to keep the government open and operational for 45 more days.
“I think the speaker has kept his word,” he said. “I know my colleagues and friends are saying different. I think he has kept his word … I think we should keep him as speaker.”
Oct 03, 3:34 PM EDT
Gaetz personally responding to pro-McCarthy speeches
During the debate, after initially introducing speeches from a few other Republicans who are backing his motion, including Andy Biggs and Bob Good, Gaetz has since used his time to personally respond to each of the pro-McCarthy speeches being made by other lawmakers.
Those responses have sometimes been as brief as simply disputing the common refrain from McCarthy’s backers: that moving to oust him is a short-sighted and punitive act that won’t help the conference accomplish its goals.
Not so, Gaetz has continually said as he repeats his argument: McCarthy must go.
-ABC News’ Adam Carlson
Oct 03, 3:29 PM EDT
Gaetz shooed away from Republican microphones
Right before debate began on the motion to vacate, Gaetz was seen trying to use the microphones on the Republican side of the chamber.
But he was blocked by McCarthy allies and aides, who shooed him to the Democratic side of the chamber.
McCarthy is sitting in the second row on the Republican side of the chamber as debate continues.
Oct 03, 3:21 PM EDT
Gaetz: ‘Chaos is Speaker McCarthy’
Gaetz took aim at Cole’s comments as he also slammed McCarthy and criticized Capitol Hill’s approach to spending.
“Chaos is Speaker McCarthy,” Gaetz said, rebuffing how Cole argued that the motion to vacate would create needless disruption in the chamber.
“Chaos is somebody that we cannot trust with their word. The one thing that the White House, House Democrats and many of us on the conservative side of the Republican caucus would argue is that the thing we have in common: Kevin McCarthy said something to all of us at one point that he didn’t really mean and never intended to live up to.”
Gaetz went on to lambast the size of national debt and deficit as well as the lack of single-subject spending bills — something McCarthy has said he is also focused on enacting.
Oct 03, 3:11 PM EDT
Cole defends McCarthy’s record and urges Dems to think twice
After Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., delivered a speech castigating McCarthy and explaining why he was joining Gaetz in the motion to vacate, Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma spoke out in support of McCarthy and warned of “chaos” should the conference’s breakaway faction succeed in removing him.
“They’re willing to plunge this body into chaos, and this country into uncertainty, for reasons only they understand,” Cole said. To the Democrats who are expected to vote against McCarthy as well, Cole said, “Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos.”
Cole also celebrated how McCarthy had navigated the differences in the closely divided House — and Washington more broadly — to notch spending cuts in the debt limit fight earlier this year, pushing back on criticism from Gaetz and others that McCarthy hadn’t done enough to curb the federal budget.
Cole also suggested McCarthy had proven himself capable of making sure the House would continue to accomplish Republican priorities.
“I’m very proud of this speaker. I’m very proud to stand behind him. Tomorrow morning, whether I win or lose, I’m going to be pretty proud of the people I fought with and I’m going to be pretty proud of the person I fought for,” Cole said.
-ABC News’ Adam Carlson
Oct 03, 3:08 PM EDT
As debate begins ahead of vote, Rep. Good outlines his case against McCarthy
Debate began Tuesday afternoon on the motion to vacate ahead of the vote on it. Gaetz ceded the floor to Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Good.
“Like so many others, I deeply regret that we are here in a totally avoidable situation,” Good said as he began his remarks, which largely targeted McCarthy’s actions on spending to date. “I must take you back to January, however, which for many of us was about not repeating the failures of the past and letting Republican voters across the country down once again.”
Good continued, “Back in January, I expressed my concern that the previous two years during my first term here in this House, we had not used every tool at our disposal to fight against the harmful, radical, Democratic agenda that is destroying the country, bankrupting the country and under which the American people are suffering.”
Oct 03, 3:04 PM EDT
McCarthy presides over opening prayer, possibly for last time
McCarthy presided over the House opening prayer — with his head bowed, eyes closed and hands clasped — possibly for the final time as his speakership hangs in the balance.
“On this day, may we sacrifice our inclination for contempt and instead initiate kindness,” Chaplain Margaret Kibben said as she offered the prayer.
“Loosen our grip on judgment and instead may we grab hold of a generosity of spirit. May we foreswear our grudges and commit instead to exercise forbearance. Hold us accountable that our arguments will hold forth your righteousness and not ring hallow in our rightness.”
Oct 03, 3:03 PM EDT
What Democrats said about McCarthy behind closed doors
Sources in the room shared with ABC News some of what was said during the hourslong Democratic caucus meeting earlier Tuesday.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin specifically raised McCarthy’s conduct surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, slamming his about-face on Trump after initially blaming him for the riot.
New York’s Dan Goldman told members he received a call from former Republican Rep. Liz Cheney encouraging Democrats to “get rid” of McCarthy.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, a movie buff, quoted “The Big Lebowski” in reference to Gaetz and their agreement over removing McCarthy: “You’re not wrong, Walter. You’re just an a——.”
Oct 03, 2:57 PM EDT
Republicans fail to block motion to vacate
The motion to table Gaetz’s own motion to vacate — which would have effectively killed his request before it received a vote — has failed, 208-218.
Eleven Republicans joined all Democrats in voting it down — setting up a key vote on the motion to vacate.
The failure of the motion to table suggests McCarthy’s speakership is in real jeopardy as he would need a majority of support of the chamber to back him in order to keep his role.
A vote on the motion to vacate is expected shortly. After the vote, McCarthy slumped in his chair in the second row.
-ABC News’ Adam Carlson
Oct 03, 2:35 PM EDT
House voting on motion to table Gaetz’s call to remove McCarthy
McCarthy ally Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., introduced a motion to table — or effectively kill — Gaetz’s effort to oust McCarthy.
Democrats then requested a voice vote on the motion, which is ongoing. It is a 15-minute vote.
Oct 03, 2:27 PM EDT
Ahead of vote, McCarthy and Gaetz spotted on the House floor
Speaker McCarthy and Rep. Gaetz are sitting just rows away from each other on the packed House floor ahead of votes on the motion to vacate.
Oct 03, 2:03 PM EDT
6 Republicans now support motion to vacate
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., just announced his support for the motion to oust McCarthy.
“I have kept my promise to the people of Montana by voting to make us energy-dominant again, secure our border, cut spending, and to put an end to the social experiment being inflicted on our military,” Rosendale wrote in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Unfortunately, Kevin McCarthy violated his promise to the American people and the Republican Conference by working against them repeatedly and supporting ploys to aid the Left. This demonstration of failed leadership is exactly why I plan on supporting the motion to vacate this afternoon,” Rosendale added.
The five other Republicans who’ve said they want McCarthy removed are Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona and Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee.
-ABC News’ Katherine Faulders
Oct 03, 1:26 PM EDT
Democrats don’t plan to save McCarthy’s speakership
During a more than two-hour caucus meeting, Democrats were strongly encouraged to vote to not support Speaker McCarthy as he fights for his job, sources tell ABC News.
“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a statement. “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.”
Several Democrats said they don’t plan to bail McCarthy out.
“We’re not voting in any way that would help save speaker McCarthy,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said.
Vice Chair of House Democratic caucus Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said, “the leadership put out the facts and the caucus heard from a lot of members… we need a functioning government and speaker McCarthy has shown he cannot govern.”
Oct 03, 1:20 PM EDT
Has an effort to remove a House speaker ever succeeded?
A motion to vacate has only ever been voted on once, in 1910, in an effort to boot then-Speaker Joseph Cannon. The effort failed.
In 2015, then-Rep. Mark Meadows filed a resolution to force a vote on then-Speaker John Boehner’s leadership. But because Meadows didn’t introduce it on the House floor, it wasn’t taken up for consideration.
While history shows previous such efforts over the years have always failed — it’s possible this one could succeed.
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