POLITICS

Wash. officials react to McCarthy being ousted as House Speaker

Oct 4, 2023, 7:10 PM | Updated: Oct 5, 2023, 4:38 pm

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy...

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy before Tuesday's vote. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was voted out of his job Tuesday, a first in U.S. history.

In a vote in House chambers on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday afternoon, representatives voted 216-210 to vacate the office of Speaker. The vote, which was forced by a contingent of hard-right conservatives, throws the House and its Republican leadership into chaos.

McCarthy’s chief rival, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, brought forward the “motion to vacate” drawing together more than a handful of conservative Republican critics of the speaker and many Democrats who say he is unworthy of leadership.

No Democrats voted in favor of McCarthy keeping his job.

McCarthy told lawmakers Tuesday evening he would not run again for speaker, putting the gavel up for grabs. Action is halted in the House until next week, when Republicans try to elect a new speaker.

“I may have lost this vote today, but as I walk out of this chamber I feel fortunate to have served,” McCarthy said at a press conference at the Capitol, alternating between upbeat assessment of his speakership and angry score-settling of those who ousted him.

Next steps are uncertain, but there is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority.

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“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Jeffries said, announcing the Democratic leadership would vote for the motion to oust the speaker.

As the House fell silent, Gaetz, a top ally of Donald Trump, rose to offer his motion. Gaetz is a leader of the hard-right Republicans who fought in January against McCarthy in his prolonged battle to gain the gavel.

“It’s a sad day,” Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said as debate got underway, urging his colleagues not to plunge the House Republican majority “into chaos.”

But Gaetz shot back during the debate, “Chaos is Speaker McCarthy.”

McCarthy’s fate was deeply uncertain as the fiery debate unfolded, with much of the complaints against the speaker revolving around his truthfulness and his ability to keep the promises he has made since January to win the gavel.

But a long line of McCarthy supporters, including Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a founding leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, stood up for him: “I think he has kept his word.” And some did so passionately. Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., waved his cellphone, saying it was “disgusting” that hard-right colleagues were fundraising off the move in text messages seeking donations.

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden “hopes the House will quickly elect a Speaker.” Once that happens, she said, “he looks forward to working together with them.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement thanking McCarthy for “what is often a thankless role.”

In comments to KIRO Newsradio, Ron Dotzauer, a political analyst, consultant and the founder & CEO of Strategies 360, emphasized the importance of McCarthy’s ouster from his job, noting this is the first time in U.S. history this has ever happened.

Dotzauer also explained how vital it is to have this position filled for business to continue in Washington.

“The Speaker of the House sets the agenda for Congress … They’re the house of origin for all the budgets. It is a huge deal to now have a rudderless U.S. House of Representatives.”

Rep. Adam Smith on KIRO Newsradio

In a statement posted on his website before the vote, Democratic Rep. Adam Smith said, “Kevin McCarthy has been one of the worst speakers in the history of this country. He has been wholly partisan, refusing to work with Democrats at every turn and launching a completely baseless impeachment inquiry into President Biden to appease Donald Trump and the MAGA base.”

Smith said the one time McCarthy worked with Democrats to avoid government default “he lied and went back on the deal almost immediately.”

He explained that McCarthy had “done irrefutable damage” to the institution of Congress.

“His speakership has been defined by chaos. He has been MAGA’s speaker since Day 1, bringing us to the brink of a default on our debt and then to the brink of a government shutdown,” Smith told Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio.

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As far as upcoming budget negotiations will go, they may take an unexpected turn with a new Speaker.

“These are bills that are total nonstarters for the Senate,” Smith explained. “They cut everything, but defense by about 30%. They got housing to cut education, they cut health care, they cut DEA agents, so 30% which is completely unacceptable to any Democrat in the House and or White House.”

Smith said the bills being introduced in the House by Republicans hurt people who need the help most.

“Going after the LGBTQ community, going after any sort of effort at diversity, trying to get rid of the travel policy that helps women get access to reproductive care,” Smith explained. “Every right-wing dream is being loaded into these appropriations bills, just so they can try to get them passed the House thus far they’ve passed three, four, or I think they pass four and they failed to pass one other one, but there’s no negotiation going on over those. They’re jamming them down our throats.”

Additional reactions from Washington legislators

Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of the fifth district in Eastern Washington wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, before the vote Tuesday that she had no intention of voting McCarthy out.

“Under Speaker McCarthy’s leadership, the People’s House has been focused on solutions for the hardworking people of this country, like lowering energy costs, raising the standard of living, and securing the border,” McMorris Rodgers wrote. “I stand by my friend and will continue to support him as Speaker.”

Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer of the sixth district released a statement after voting in favor to oust McCarthy that he spent four years chairing a committee “to strengthen the U.S. House as an institution because I care passionately about a Congress that can solve problems for the American people.”

“Unfortunately, Speaker McCarthy has repeatedly chosen to weaken the institution by bending to extremists rather than collaborating across the aisle. He has inherited the chaos he has sown, Kilmer added.

Kilmer concluded by noting that choosing a new speaker will be messy but he hopes Republicans “will embrace a smarter path forward and a more functional House.”

Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene of the first district, who also voted to for the motion to vacate, released a statement after the vote as well.

“House Republicans have proven once again that they cannot govern,” DelBene’s statement said. “From day one of this Congress, they have put their extreme, unpopular agenda ahead of the interests of the country. They have lurched from one manufactured crisis to another trying to get their way, putting families and our economy at risk. House Republicans alone started this leadership crisis and they alone can resolve it.”

She also said she is in Washington to “govern and address the issues facing families across Washington and the nation,” adding she stands with House Democrats united around Jeffries.

In her statement after voting McCarthy out, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of the third district in Southwest Washington said she embraces bipartisanship and isn’t afraid to work “across the aisle” when she feels it is the right thing to do for her district.

“But bipartisanship isn’t how Kevin McCarthy tries to get things done,” Gluesenkamp Perez said in her statement. “He’s taken our country to the brink of a default and the brink of a shutdown because of his refusal to operate in a bipartisan manner. He’s shown he’d rather be held hostage by a bunch of weirdos than admit he cannot lead the People’s House.”

She also emphasized that she didn’t vote for McCarthy in January and didn’t vote for him to keep his job during these proceedings.

“What this country needs is somebody who can govern, and (McCarthy) hasn’t been that leader,” she added.

More from King County Republicans

Mathew Patrick Thomas was elected chairman of the King County Republican Party in March of 2022.

He believes his colleagues in Washington, D.C., have to come together and figure things out or take more losses where it really counts.

“The party has to do that,” Thomas said to KIRO Newsradio. “If not, we’re going to lose at the ballot box as well. Republicans can figure out how to govern or we’re going to vote someone else in. And I hope that’s not the case. I have hope the Republican Party will figure out how to govern.”

He says his challenge was the same whomever is elected speaker of the House, unifying the party and finding consensus among its members.

“The same debate that’s happening on national TV is happening locally across the country,” Thomas added. “This is an opportunity for the party to start talking to each other and become the Republican family I know we can be.”

The Adam Smith interview aired on Seattle’s Morning News Wednesday.

Contributing: James Lynch and Heather Bosch, KIRO Newsradio; The Associated Press; CBS News 

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Wash. officials react to McCarthy being ousted as House Speaker