US Speaker Silenced, Who Gets The Gavel Next?

Former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP
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The United States House of Representatives is looking for a new Speaker of the House of Representatives after Republican Kevin McCarthy was unexpectedly defeated in a vote of no confidence backed by a handful of right wing members of his own Republican party, plus all the Democrats.

The Republicans control the lower chamber of Congress but with a very narrow majority.

So when eight rebels joined the Democrats on Tuesday night his fate was sealed in a 216-210 final vote.

It is the first time a House Speaker, one of the most influential jobs in US politics, has been kicked out of office in this way.

The rebellion was led by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz after Mr McCarthy relied on Democratic votes to get a short-term spending deal passed on Saturday to avert a government shutdown.

“Kevin McCarthy is a creature of the swamp. He has risen to power by collecting special interest money and redistributing that money in exchange for favors. We are breaking the fever now,” Gaetz told reporters after the vote.

Mr Gaetz accused him of making a “secret side deal” at the weekend with President Biden on Ukraine aid.

“I don’t regret standing up for choosing government over grievance. It is my responsibility. It is my job. I do not regret negotiating. Our government is designed to find compromise. I don’t regret my efforts to build coalitions and find solutions,” McCarthy said. “I was raised to solve problems not create them.”

But really this was the final act in a bitter saga that has been simmering all year between the Speaker and a right-wing faction in his party.

 

They tried to block his election to the post in January, saying he could not be trusted to enact conservative principles.

In their view he proved that by striking a deal with Democrats in June to raise the debt ceiling without extracting the deep cuts they wanted.

Now they are the ones being accused of treachery – some Republicans are openly talking about expelling Mr Gaetz.

The House is on recess for a week and in this period members will be discussing who to back in the looming vote for a new Speaker.

That has been scheduled for Wednesday 11 October but it could take days or weeks to find someone who can get the backing of a majority of the House.

It took Kevin McCarthy 15 votes over four days to finally be elected.

Given the bad blood in the party over his removal it is hard to imagine a figure who could unite the warring factions.

On a temporary basis it is Patrick McHenry of North Carolina who heads a secret list of interim leaders Mr McCarthy submitted when he got the job.

He does not have the power to run the chamber but “may exercise such authorities of the office of speaker as may be necessary and appropriate pending the election of a speaker,” according to House rules.

That would appear to rule out bringing legislation to the floor.

Other names being mentioned are Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise and Minnesota Republican Tom Emmer.

Mr McCarthy has ruled out running again.
Sources: BBC, news agencies.
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