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The Ousting of Speaker Kevin McCarthy

On Tuesday, October 3, 2023, for the first time in American history, a House Speaker was voted out of their office in the result of a “motion to vacate” by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.

McCarthy was criticized for making a debt deal with President to prevent a default, and for voting to prevent a government shutdown this past weekend. 

After the government shutdown was avoided this past weekend, Kevin McCarthy commented on the threat to oust him: “If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try.”

Following the 216-210 vote, Patrick McHenry, a Republican from Charlotte, North Carolina, and ally of Kevin McCarthy, was named the Speaker pro tempore pending the selection of a permanent speaker of the House.   

As a designated Speaker pro tempore, Patrick McHenry’s authority and powers are limited – absent unanimous consent or specific House approval, a designated Speaker pro tempore may not:

  • Administer the oath of office to a Member-elect.
  • Announce appointments made by the Speaker pursuant to law.
  • Appoint conferees or make appointments of additional conferees.
  • Appoint Members to attend a funeral.
  • Spread upon the Journal a veto message from the President.

House Republicans now need to decide who they want to nominate.  While in the past, every Speaker was a sitting member of the House, it is not a prerequisite. Texas Republican Troy Nehls therefore wants to nominate Donald Trump as Speaker of the House.  However, there are multiple other Republicans who could potentially mount a bid including Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Kevin Hern.

Steve Scalise already announced his bid today, October 4, 2023, and wrote to his fellow representatives: “I believe we were all put here for a purpose. This next chapter won’t be easy, but I know what it takes to fight and I am prepared for the battles that lie ahead. I humbly ask you for your support on this mission to be your Speaker of the House.”

The Democrats of the House plan to nominate their fellow New York Democrat, Hakeem Jeffries.

However, because the Republicans hold the majority of the House, it is not to be expected that the Democrats’ nominee will prevail.  

By Jana H. Collins

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