Congress in Chaos After Eight Republicans Collude with Democrats to Remove McCarthy as Speaker

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was removed from his position on Tuesday after eight House Republicans colluded with Democrats to remove him in the first-ever successful use of a “motion to vacate the chair.”


House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was removed from his position on Tuesday after eight House Republicans colluded with Democrats to remove him in the first-ever successful use of a “motion to vacate the chair.”

  • McCarthy was ousted by a 216-210 vote, with 208 Democrats and 8 Republicans providing the majority necessary for his removal. The 210 Republicans who voted to keep him constitute 95% of the House Republican Conference. Seven members did not vote and there are two vacancies.
  • Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed the motion to vacate on Monday, after collaborating with hard-left Democrats for weeks to gain support for his plot. Gaetz reached out to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to get the left-wing of the Democratic caucus behind his plans.
  • Gaetz and Matt Rosendale (R-MT) are both plotting bids for statewide office and plan to use the situation they engineered to aid their future campaigns. Gaetz is maneuvering to run for Governor of Florida in 2026. 
  • Rosendale is considered likely to run for Senate in 2024, six years after blowing a winnable race for the same Senate seat in solidly conservative Montana. Rosendale laid bare his craven political calculations last week when he told donors that he “was praying each evening for a small majority” in the leadup to the 2022 elections because that would increase his power.
  • Both men helped deny McCarthy GOP votes to pass a conservative continuing resolution (CR), which forced him to rely on Democrats to pass a less conservative CR to avoid a government shutdown. Gaetz and Rosendale both slammed McCarthy for collaborating with Democrats, all while they were plotting with Democrats behind the scenes to remove the speaker.
  • Gaetz’s collusion with Democrats was laid bare on Tuesday, when he led the debate over removing McCarthy from the Democratic side of the chamber. Democrats stayed silent during the Republican-on-Republican debate before the vote, allowing Gaetz and his collaborators to make the case to remove McCarthy for them. 
  • The eight collaborators span the breadth of the GOP conference, ranging from moderate Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) to critic of the hard-right Ken Buck (R-CO) and self-described conservatives Tim Burchett (R-TN), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Bob Good (R-VA). The eight also include Eli Crane (R-AZ), who represents a swing seat and took thousands of dollars from McCarthy’s leadership PAC. 
  • After his removal, McCarthy announced he would not seek to return to his position, kicking off a wide-open leadership race with less than 45 days to go before the government shuts down. 
  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced he would seek the speakership on Wednesday. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the Majority Leader, is  expected to announce his bid later Wednesday.
  • Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) threw his support behind Scalise and reportedly plans to run for Majority Leader. Chief Deputy Whip Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) plans to seek the open whip spot if Emmer runs for leader.
  • Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) will serve as Speaker Pro Temp in the interim with limited powers. McHenry moved quickly to punish Democrats for collaborating with less than 5% of the conference to remove McCarthy by kicking former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and ex-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) out of their coveted hideaway offices in the Capitol.
  • Many House Republicans are furious at the eight collaborators and are looking for ways to punish them for working with Democrats. House Republicans are considering expelling Gaetz and the other collaborators from their conference, or even from the House altogether.
  • McHenry scheduled a candidate forum for Tuesday with a vote on Wednesday of next week. Given McCarthy’s struggles to earn (15 votes in January) and inability to keep the support of a majority of the House, there is no guarantee that whoever Republicans nominate in conference will be able to secure the majority necessary to be elected Speaker on the House floor.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times noted that although McCarthy “narrowly pulled the country back from the brink of crisis — twice,” the former Speaker “took many other actions, and said many things, that antagonized hard-line Republicans, Democrats and the White House. When the critical moment came, no one was willing to race to his rescue.”
  • The Washington Post reported on how former President Donald Trump betrayed McCarthy in his hour of need. McCarthy, a steadfast Trump ally whose decision to fly to Mar-a-Lago in the weeks after Jan. 6 was a key component of Trump’s political rehabilitation and a key factor that alienated Democrats from supporting him in the MTV, was left out in the cold by the man who had repeatedly endorsed him for speaker. Trump posted  “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves, why aren’t they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our country?” during the vote, but otherwise did nothing to rescue his erstwhile ally.
  • “McCarthy’s short speakership underscored how the Republican Party in the age of Donald Trump has turned into one of the great forces of instability in American life, and potentially the world, with the ex-president dominating the 2024 GOP primary as he takes aim at a wrecking ball second term,” wrote Stephen Collinson for CNN. “A party that once defined conservatism as preserving a traditional sense of steadiness and strength has evolved over the last three decades into a haven for chaos agents, stunt politics and a perpetual ideological revolution that keeps driving it to new extremes.”



  • “The Hateful Eight” have handed “the House to the Democrats,” Ben Domenech wrote for the Spectator. Domenech pointed out the eight Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats have little in common except for their unanimous calculation that, for their own political purposes, “they are better off without McCarthy as speaker” – even though their decision has “ensured the House is controlled by Democrats in all but name.”
  • “Matt Gaetz didn’t oust McCarthy. He just helped the Democrats do it,” argued David Harsanyi in the Federalist. Harsanyi continued, “Matt Gaetz’s self-aggrandizing political stunt makes no sense and changes nothing — other than perhaps his fundraising totals. And other than some platitudinous blathering about “the establishment” and “the uniparty,” I still haven’t seen anyone offer a coherent reason — not even retroactively— for how any of this is the “best way to advance the conservative agenda.”
  • Noah Rothman argued for National Review that Democrats should not be surprised that McHenry and the GOP are out for blood after McCarthy’s removal. “Democrats voted in lockstep with a faction of the conference that a majority of the majority desperately wants to punish,” Rothman wrote. “That’s a fraught prospect given the largely assumed influence the Right’s insurrectionary elements allegedly command among rank-and-file GOP voters, but meting out revenge against the Democrats who aided them isn’t nearly as difficult. This is what Democrats voted for.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023