Kevin McCarthy told a news conference on Tuesday night that he will not seek to run again for speaker of the United States House of Representatives hours after he was ousted from the position amid Republican infighting in a historic vote.
The 216-210 vote came nearly nine months after McCarthy won the position in a dramatic 15-round floor fight, marking the first time in U.S. history that a House speaker has been voted out of office in the middle of a term.
Eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting to remove McCarthy from the position, less than one day after hardline Republican Representative Matt Gaetz announced a resolution to remove McCarthy through a process known as “a motion to vacate.”
“I fought for what I believe in,” McCarthy said. “I believe I can continue to fight, but maybe in a different manner,” he added.
The House looked set to go leaderless for at least a week, as multiple Republicans said they planned to meet on October 10 to discuss possible McCarthy successors, with a vote on a new speaker planned for October 11.
Gaetz and other hard-line Republicans had warned for weeks they would move to oust McCarthy from his position as leader of the chamber if McCarthy relied on Democrats to pass funding legislation.
Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday that under the Republican majority, the House “has been restructured to empower right-wing extremists, kowtow to their harsh demands and impose a rigid partisan ideology.”
“Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair,” said Jeffries, referring the “Make America Great Again” slogan popularized by Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Stopgap funding bill
In a last-minute effort to avert a government shutdown, McCarthy released a stopgap funding bill Saturday morning, which would keep federal agencies funded at current levels until mid-November, and included $16 billion of funding for disaster relief.
The bill dropped steep spending cuts and border security provisions sought by conservative Republicans, and did not include additional aid for Ukraine sought by Democrats.
The bill was passed by the Senate and House on Saturday, and was signed by U.S. President Joe Biden Saturday night, just a few minutes before federal government funding for this fiscal year was set to expire.
McCarthy’s proposal came as a surprise, as he had been trying to advance a funding bill with steep spending cuts and border security provisions in attempts to garner support from Republican conservatives.
His decision to put forward the “clean” stopgap funding bill was welcomed by Democrats and the White House, but had upset some Republicans, especially party hardliners in the House.
When asked Saturday what if conservative Republican critics tried to remove him from the speakership over the funding bill, McCarthy told reporters that “If someone wants to remove (me) because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try.”
The House will now need to elect a new speaker, but there is no consensus yet on who might be able to fill the vacancy.
(With input from agencies)