McCarthy speaker vote live updates: House speaker ousted for first time in US history
Written by ABC Audio ALL RIGHTS RESERVED on October 4, 2023
(WASHINGTON) — A showdown is unfolding Tuesday to determine House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s fate as leader of the chamber’s Republican majority.
Hard-line Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is leading the charge against McCarthy. He introduced a so-called motion to vacate late Monday after criticizing how McCarthy has handled spending and budget issues since Republicans retook majority control of the chamber and claiming McCarthy can’t be trusted.
McCarthy has defended his record, including most recently in averting a partial federal government shutdown with Democratic support — calling himself “the adult in the room.”
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.
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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