WASHINGTON – Kevin McCarthy was removed as speaker of the U.S. House on Tuesday in a stunning vote that saw Minnesota Democrats support ousting him while Republicans from the state stuck with the man who had led them for months.
The removal effort was led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a constant McCarthy antagonist and far-right Republican. Conservative critics of McCarthy have blasted the speaker's handling of the debt ceiling and what he did to help avert a government shutdown.
The coalition that voted against McCarthy, which included 208 House Democrats and a small group of Republicans, sent the chamber spiraling into an unprecedented situation.
"They made a sham of themselves, their conference and the people they represent and their majority," Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar said of House Republicans. She had made clear before the vote that she didn't intend to help save the political future of the man who led the push to oust her from the House foreign affairs committee.
Minnesota's four House Republicans backed McCarthy, including GOP House Majority Whip Tom Emmer.
Emmer defended McCarthy in a floor speech ahead of the vote. He claimed that with McCarthy in charge, the House GOP "has actually defied all odds and overperformed expectations again and again and again," pointing to what's transpired since January.
"Make no mistake, we need Kevin McCarthy to remain speaker if we're going to stay focused on our mission of delivering common sense wins for the American people," Emmer, the third highest-ranking House Republican, said on the floor.
But the fragile alliances McCarthy brokered in January to become speaker after a tumultuous 15 rounds of voting splintered in a dramatic fashion in recent days, emboldened by the low hurdle his critics needed to test his support on the floor.
"Matt Gaetz and a handful of other selfish Republicans have no interest in governing," GOP Rep. Pete Stauber said in a statement. "They care more about fundraising and making a name for themselves than getting the hard work done for the American people."
GOP Rep. Brad Finstad said he was disappointed at the "chaos" in the House on Tuesday.
"Rather than continuing to focus on the eight remaining appropriations bills that will fund the government, a few members of the Republican conference chose to play out their personal grievances on the House Floor by introducing a motion to vacate the Speaker," Finstad said in a statement.
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum said that "McCarthy has never asked for my vote, much less offered to listen to the priorities of the people I represent."
"Why would I vote to enable the ongoing madness and chaos that have consumed the U.S. House since January?" McCollum said in a statement.
The choices McCarthy has made during his time in Washington paved the way for his removal. And some Democrats practiced a familiar refrain: there are trust issues.
"I think it's fair to say, sadly, the speaker has lost a lot of credibility with his own side and probably even more with ours," Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips said Monday evening.
Centrist Democrats like Phillips and Rep. Angie Craig could have proved critical in saving McCarthy. But with his political future in danger, Minnesota Democrats had no interest in aiding their leading opponent across the aisle.
"Kevin McCarthy has spent the last nine months placating the most radical MAGA Republicans in his party. We can't trust him to stand by the agreements he makes," Craig said in a statement.