House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Ousted Amid Escalating GOP Civil War
Hageman blasted McCarthy’s Republican critics as ‘selfish’
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Oct 04, 2023
The Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was ousted from his post on Tuesday for the first time in U.S. history, as a coalition of disaffected Republicans joined all Democrats in a vote supporting his removal. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
By Jacob Gardenswartz
Special to the Wyoming Truth
WASHINGTON — A small coalition of disaffected Republicans banded together with Democrats on Tuesday to force the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from his post as the most powerful legislator in America, thrusting the GOP conference into unprecedented chaos and leaving the chamber without a permanent leader as the GOP’s intra-party battle devolved into outright civil war.
After a history-making day at the Capitol, McCarthy told reporters during a 45-minute news conference later that evening that he would not seek the speakership again. “My goals have not changed. My ability to fight is just in a different form,” he said.
In a surprise change to the schedule, lawmakers moved to recess for the week and return to their home districts, with the hopes of electing a new speaker upon their return to Washington on Oct. 10.
McCarthy’s removal comes nine months to the day since lawmakers first started voting to grant him the speaker’s gavel in the first place, itself a laborious endeavor which required 15 attempts before the Californian emerged victorious. To win over GOP holdouts then, McCarthy made a series of concessions to his detractors, including lowering the threshold to “vacate the chair,” or force a vote of confidence in the speaker, to just one member.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) did just that Tuesday morning, making good on his promise to bring a “privileged” resolution to the floor and force his colleagues to again publicly voice whether they supported their party leader. Gaetz has been among McCarthy’s loudest GOP critics since the beginning and was especially incensed by McCarthy’s decision not to shut down the government last week.
“Chaos is speaker McCarthy,” Gaetz said in remarks on the House floor, pushing back against Republicans incensed by his move. “Chaos is somebody who we cannot trust with their word.”
After clearing procedural hurdles, seven additional Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for Gaetz’s resolution, which passed 216–210 and forced the removal of the House speaker by vote for the first time in U.S. history. Under a 2001-era law designed to preserve the continuity of government in times of crisis, McCarthy’s handpicked successor, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), was immediately appointed interim speaker and called the House into recess.
But even with McHenry in place, the business of the House has essentially been ground to a halt. Without a duly-elected Speaker, the lower chamber can accomplish little — even though the government is still set to run out of money on Nov. 18.
Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), who voted against bringing Gaetz’s resolution to the floor and later to maintain McCarthy as speaker, blasted Gatez’s move.
“There are far too many pressing concerns facing this nation for Congress to be pulled into such a self-serving stunt as one member is selfishly trying to torpedo the business of the House,” Hageman said in a statement. “There’s nothing Democrats and the media like better than Republican-on-Republican infighting, and this distraction focuses all attention on that.”
As the Wyoming congresswoman later noted on X, the site formally known as Twitter, lawmakers have only approved four of the 12 mandatory government appropriation bills — and will now be skipping town for a week while they sort out their succession planning. Government funding, meanwhile, is set to expire in just over 40 days.
Hageman sticks by former speaker, while her predecessor helped turn the knife
Hageman’s votes to stand by McCarthy tracks with her previous decision to back him during his race for GOP leader earlier this year. Though she aligns ideologically with many of McCarthy’s top critics, Hageman maintains close ties with Republican leadership and has been rewarded for it — earning seats on the coveted Judiciary Committee, a subcommittee chairmanship and a post on Republicans’ select committee investigating the so-called “weaponization” of the government.
Just last month, McCarthy gave Hageman another nod by tapping her to serve on the conference committee working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the 2024 defense appropriations bill.
“[Speaker] Kevin [McCarthy] supported me in the primary, and then obviously in the general election as well,” Hageman told the Wyoming Truth in an exclusive interview earlier this year. “Kevin knows very [much] how I’m aligned, in that I’m definitely on the more conservative end of the spectrum… I agreed to support him. I’m not gonna go back on my word on something like that.”
The question now becomes who could win the 218 votes necessary to replace McCarthy — and who would want to. Any plausible candidate would no-doubt face many of the same challenges that plagued McCarthy: razor-thin margins, a polarizing political environment and a small, but vocal group of far-right lawmakers who’ve shown no qualms targeting members of their own party.
Among the names rumored to be throwing his hat in the ring is Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), McCarthy’s number-two with whom Hageman has a particularly close relationship.
“Hageman has become a strong voice in our conference,” Scalise (R-La.) told the Wyoming Truth earlier this year, noting that she’s “part of a small advisory group of members that I meet with weekly to plan the direction of the House.”
Further complicating matters is the role of Hageman’s predecessor in all this. Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has made no secret of her distaste for McCarthy, who helped orchestrate her own ouster from GOP leadership in response to her public criticism of former President Donald Trump.
“He’s been completely unfaithful to the Constitution and demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the significance and the importance of the role of speaker,” Cheney said of McCarthy in an interview with ABC News last year.
Now, she may have gotten her vengeance. During a closed-door meeting of the House Democrats earlier Tuesday, one lawmaker reportedly told his colleagues that he received a call from the former congresswoman urging Democrats not to vote save McCarthy — as some Republicans were imploring them to do.
Despite speculation some might help the embattled speaker withstand his intra-party attackers, every Democrat ultimately opposed McCarthy.
“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) 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.”