Emyr Ortiz / The Highlander

On Tuesday, October 2, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was stripped of his position in a 216-210 vote on a “motion to vacate.” The vote on Tuesday was the culmination of a conflict that has brewed in the U.S. House of Representatives between hard-right Republicans and Representative McCarthy for months. 

From its beginning, the Speakership of Kevin McCarthy has been a delicate one. Rep. McCarthy was first elected to the post in January after an arduous 15 rounds of voting, making various concessions in order to consolidate the support of several hard-right hold outs. One of those concessions included a one-vote requirement to introduce a motion to vacate, meaning any member could call a vote for McCarthy’s removal at any time. 

In recent months, various actions by McCarthy have weakened his support among more conservative Republicans. In May, McCarthy worked with Democrats to pass a bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling. McCarthy and his supporters touted the deal, which set up spending caps for the next two years, rescinded approximately $28 billion in unspent Covid relief money, and cut $1.4 billion in IRS funding, as “historic.” However, hard-line Republicans such as Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, characterized the deal as Biden stealing McCarthy’s “lunch money.” Rep. Gaetz, who filed the motion to vacate against McCarthy, called this deal the “original sin.

When McCarthy defied the wishes of hard-right Republicans and worked with Democrats on another proposal to avert a government shutdown, it only took three days for the motion to vacate to be proposed and voted on. With House Republicans holding a narrow majority, the 8 Republicans who voted against McCarthy, along with every voting Democrat, cemented the removal of McCarthy. 

No Speaker of the House has ever been ousted by such a motion in the history of the United States. In 1910, a motion to vacate was raised on Joseph Cannon. The motion to vacate failed 155 to 192, and while Cannon had his powers stripped in a previous vote which passed 191 to 156, he remained the Speaker of the House. In 1997, Newt Gingrich was considered for a motion to vacate. While the motion was never filed, an ethics investigation in 1998 led him to resign as speaker on November 6, 1998. John Boehner, had a motion to vacate filed against him, but stepped down as speaker before the motion was called in September of 2015.

In the coming days, the House will work on deciding who should hold the Speaker’s gavel. McCarthy has stated that he does not plan on running again, a pledge which has set up a contest between two declared candidates. Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Steve Scalise of Louisiana have both declared their intent to fill McCarthy’s old job. 

Representative Scalise is the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, and has taken a traditional route to his position in House Republican leadership. Elected to his first House leadership position in 2014, Scalise has spent years as Minority and Majority Whip building relationships throughout the party as he corralled lawmakers’ votes. He was also a top fundraiser for Republicans’ last year. 

Rep. Jordan has made a name for himself as a leader on the Republican right-wing. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he is one of the leaders behind the House impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, and has been a top defender of Former President Donald Trump. Rep. Jordan’s bid for the speakership was given a boost on Thursday the fifth when Trump endorsed Jordan.

House Republicans are scheduled to meet on Tuesday in a closed door meeting to vet candidates, and plan to hold an internal election for speaker Wednesday morning. Until a new Speaker is elected, McCarthy ally, Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina will serve as interim Speaker