Kevin McCarthy lost a bruising vote on Tuesday to remove him as speaker of the House, sending the chamber into turmoil.
The House voted 216–210 to strip McCarthy of the gavel. Republicans Andy Biggs, Ken Buck, Tim Burchett, Eli Crane, Matt Gaetz, Bob Good, Nancy Mace, and Matt Rosendale voted against him.
This is the first time in 113 years that the House voted on whether to eject the speaker—and the first time in U.S. history that the House speaker has lost the vote. A new vote will now be held to replace McCarthy, but it’s unclear who among Republicans will step up or how long it will take to find a new replacement.
Replacing McCarthy now will be terrible timing for the House, which needs to start passing appropriations bills. But Republicans are in such disarray that the chamber has struggled to approve anything. The GOP nearly forced a government shutdown over the weekend because they couldn’t agree on anything.
Representative Matt Gaetz introduced the motion to vacate late Monday, following weeks of trading increasingly heated barbs with McCarthy over spending bills. Gaetz revealed earlier Tuesday that he had no plan for who will replace McCarthy now that he has lost.
The natural successor to McCarthy would be House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who is out getting treatment for multiple myeloma. Majority Whip Tom Emmer and conference chair Elise Stefanik would also be obvious choices, but they both took themselves out of the running.
Ultimately, McCarthy has no one to blame but himself for Gaetz’s motion. McCarthy won the speakership in January only after 15 rounds of votes and ceding most of his power to the farthest-right wing of his party. Gaetz has been threatening to file a motion to vacate for months.
But Gaetz may be in hot water now too. Ousting McCarthy and plunging the House further into shambles is unlikely to boost his standing among fellow Republicans. The House GOP is already planning to expel him, depending on whether the Ethics Committee finds him guilty of sexual misconduct and illegal drug use, among other things.