Motion to Vacate McCarthy Speakership Succeeds

A weak leader has been ousted. Now what?

NPR (“11 House Republicans join Democrats to move ahead in bid to remove McCarthy as speaker“):

Eleven House Republicans joined 207 Democrats to move ahead with an effort to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his job.

The next step will be for the House to vote on a “motion to vacate,” which could happen in the coming hours.

If the resolution does pass, the Clerk of the House will refer to a list of people who can act as speaker pro tempore in the absence of speaker. That list is kept secret and will only be made public in the event that the speakership is vacant.

The House will then be forced to hold votes on a new speaker, though that could take time. Members will likely need to meet to discuss the path ahead. Members are already preparing for a fraught process.

It took 15 rounds to elect McCarthy Speaker in January, in part because there was no consensus alternative.

There is no clear alternative who could win the votes necessary to fill the job.

Despite multiple reports yesterday that it would take a vote of two-thirds of the members present to vacate the Speakership, it appears that only a simple majority will be required. Given that the number of Republicans needed to vacate is somewhere on the order of 5-7 (depending on the number of Democratic non-votes), it appears to be a fait accompli.

But that still leaves us where we were yesterday: Then what?

Who is it that can get a majority of the House to vote for them? Which is to say, who can get 218 Republicans out of the 221, since no Democrat will vote for a Republican Speaker and no Republican will vote for a Democratic Speaker?

Are we going to wind up vacating McCarthy’s Speakership only to replace him with Speaker McCarthy?

UPDATE: The roll call isn’t quite finished but there are already more than enough Republican votes (8) to vacate and the Democrats aren’t going to save him.

UPDATE 2: It’s done. Post title and subhed tweaked accordingly rather than start a new thread. The NYT is live-blogging and Catie Edmonson posts this in succession:

Kevin McCarthy, his ouster as speaker complete, is smiling as his allies walk over to shake his hand.

“Now what?” one Republican loudly asks. This has never happened in the House of Representatives before.

Hard-right rebels have succeeded in their drive to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He is out in a 216 to 210 vote. Eight Republicans voted to dethrone him. The House has no speaker.

It’s fitting, I suppose, that a man with no spine, who rendered himself powerless to gain power, has now lost power for the crime of showing some spine to avert a government shutdown that would have been disastrous for the country and his party.

Patrick McHenry is now the interim Speaker but he has essentially no parliamentary power. He has put the House into recess, presumably to come up with an answer to the question that has now been asked multiple times in this post: Now what?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Are we going to wind up vacating McCarthy’s Speakership only to replace him with Speaker McCarthy?

    That would be possible. Still, I will only refer us to one of the related posts on the sidebar:

    The Chaos is the Point

  2. becca says:

    Newt Gingrich has an op-ed in the WaPo saying Matt Gaetz must be expelled. That some serious chutzpah there.

  3. becca says:

    Looks like it’s former Speaker McCarthy now. History is made! And not in a good way.

  4. Kathy says:

    Now what?

    Does the House proceed to nominate and vote for a new speaker, or can they put it off til tomorrow?

  5. dazedandconfused says:


    I would guess they are bugging Trump, the only person they are all afraid to cross, to endorse someone and settle the issue.

  6. DAllenABQ says:

    @becca: I actually laughed out loud when I read that piece. But then again, shamelessness is a form of a superpower.

  7. Beth says:

    I am so proud of the Democrats today.

    Republicans have spent the last couple of decades pantsing Democrats, making messes and expecting the Dems to clean it up. Today the said No with such absolute unity. It’s breathtaking.

  8. mattbernius says:

    It’s fitting, I suppose, that a man with no spine, who rendered himself powerless to gain power, has now lost power for the crime of showing some spine to avert a government shutdown that would have been disastrous for the country and his party.

    I think the more immediately cause was relying on Democratic votes to get the CR passed in order to not shut down the Government when you couldn’t deliver the votes from your party and then blaming them–versus your own caucus–literally the next morning.

    REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Well – well, I wasn’t sure it was going to pass. You want to know why?

    Because the Democrats tried to do everything they can not to let it pass.

    REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Look, Democrats stick together, but they did not want the bill. They did not – they – they were willing to let government shut down, for our military not to be paid.

    Also it didn’t help that he wasn’t prepared to offer the Democrats anything in return for the support.

  9. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Beth: I can appreciate your feelings in the moment. I do wonder how they (House Democrats) think this might play out. I mean, it’s possible we might go 45 days without a Speaker, and then we get a shutdown. Which is probably what the Gang of Eight wants, right? So where does this go?

  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    It’s weird that the thing they vacated for was the exact act that I appreciate the most in his tenure as Speaker.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    If there were five patriots in the GOP caucus they’d support Hakeem as speaker.

  12. DrDaveT says:

    I am confused by the continued use of the words “leader” and “power” in reportage about McCarthy. I can’t see how either applies.

  13. Raoul says:

    I believe there were several Dems willing to abstain in their vote thus ensuring the continuing speakership of McCarthy, but him belittling them and just being an overall oaf towards all Dems ensured this outcome.

  14. Neil Hudelson says:

    That Biden forced the Republicans to fire their Speaker in order to distract from Hunter shows just how desperate the Democrats are.

  15. Gustopher says:

    This is a necessary step.

    I hope that this ends up with a stupid “problem solvers” caucus* in the middle, neutering the Q Caucus, presumably boosting a non-Q Republican (because obviously it can’t be a conservative Democrat…).

    It’s either going to be that or Speaker Boebert or something awful.

    I suppose Trump might back someone (Elise Stefanik?) but that will end up just kicking the can down the road and it will all blow up again when they try to govern the ungovernable.

    But, “to Q or not to Q?” needs to be decided for the Republicans.

    *: like all self-chosen names, the “Problem Solvers” is a lie. They will solve no problems. But they would create fewer problems than the Q Caucus.

  16. Gustopher says:

    @Raoul: why would Dems do that? There’s plenty of time for that on the 23rd vote for a Speaker, when they can extract a few concessions. Even something small, like a nice cactus.

  17. Beth says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    We were going to get a shut down no matter what the second the GOP got more seats. We’re lucky we averted the debt crisis, but that’s it. The GOP is currently fundamentally incapable of governing. They’ve seared the Regan bs about government being the problem into their tiny little brains. Worse, every Republican Speaker since Gingrich has gotten dumber and less capable. Correspondingly, the Republican money has funneled to people more in the mold of Gaetz, Boebert, and Roy. These are not serious people. Now we’ve got a situation where you fundamentally can’t trust them. You make a deal with them and the renege on it immediately, then shit talk about you when you save them. Or they load up bills that are so laden with evil culture war bullshit and demand you not only help pass it, but you thank them for you helping pass it. Republicans don’t know how to govern any more and their idea is to simply rule, no matter what.

    A shut down is inevitable, unless as @Michael Reynolds: points out, 5 Republicans have to support Jeffries or quit. The Dems have zero obligation to save them and they have finally figured out that if they continue to do so, they will get stabbed in the front and the back.


    From what I read there were a whole bunch of Dems willing to back him but he told them to eat shit in deeply dishonorable ways. How bad do you have to screw up to get the Blue Dogs and Problem Solvers pissed at you? Those are people that would bend over backwards to kiss Republican ass.

  18. Beth says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Lol, do you write for the New York Times?

  19. Not the IT Dept. says:

    So he gets to be called the Speaker for the rest of his life, just like Gingrich does based on his few years with the gavel back in the 90’s. And the talk shows – being run mostly by idiots – will book him regularly to hold forth on what other politicians are doing wrong. (I would love to be proved wrong about the last point.)

    As for who will be the next candidate for speaker, I’m thinking most of the anti-Kevins (as well as Trump) never really thought too hard about it. So they’ll claw and bite at each other for a few weeks while the rest of the country watches.

    Also: good on the Dems. No more bailing the GOP out of their self-inflicted idiocies.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jay L Gischer: I do wonder how they (House Democrats) think this might play out.

    So, you expeced the Dems to once again pull Republican chestnuts out of the fire? They currently have 45 days to deal with this idiocy, I suggest they start with letting the Repubs self immolate.

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: So, you expeced the Dems

    Boy, I don’t know how I missed that faux pa. “Expect… EXPECT…”

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: When it happens in my work, I always blame the key for not triggering. (I pushed the “T,” it just didn’t fire.) Either that or I blame my tremors.

  23. Jay L Gischer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I expect Democrats to behave in exactly the same way I wanted McCarthy to behave, and he got vacated for the trouble. I expect them to, in the end, put country ahead of party.

    I do not expect them to “vote for what feels good in the moment”. There’s too goddam much at stake for that crap. So, they have some ideas about how this might play out, I would think. Ideas that they certainly aren’t sharing.

    That doesn’t mean they can’t let the Rs twist in the wind for a while. Maybe somebody can figure out how to put together a government, I mean a House. But really, we need a snap election.

  24. CSK says:

    The MAGAs are pushing for Trump to succeed McCarthy.

  25. Tony W says:

    @CSK: Imagine Trump working that hard….

    Plus, there’s the whole issue of House business being put on hold while he defends himself from 93 felonies and a few civil suits, and runs for president to try to make it all go away.

    Oh, and he doesn’t know shit about parliamentary procedure, and he’d get his ass handed to him before 2nd breakfast on day 1.