Connecticut’s all-Democrat congressional delegation voted Tuesday with their party and GOP critics to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as House Speaker, a move that will further shake up how a divided Congress operates and passes key legislation.
The vote comes a few days after Congress avoided a government shutdown at the eleventh hour by passing a short-term funding bill. McCarthy critic Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., vowed to file a motion to remove McCarthy as speaker if he backed off on GOP spending commitments and passed the recent legislation with the help of Democrats.
After a procedural vote failed to stop the process, lawmakers voted on the motion to vacate on Tuesday afternoon. The House clerk held a roll call vote and went one by one through each member. Gaetz noted that most House votes are “predetermined,” but he acknowledged that he was unsure of which way it would go.
McCarthy ultimately went on to lose the vote, 216-210. Eight Republicans and all Democrats present voted to depose him.
That included all five members of Connecticut’s delegation — Rep. John Larson, D-1 District; Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District; Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-5th District; Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District; and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District — supported McCarthy’s ouster.
Heading into the vote, House Democrats signaled they would be a unified front and vote against the speaker, whom they argue caused “dysfunction” over the past few months when the chamber was voting on must-pass legislation.
“Week after week, this institution has endured legislative chaos and uncertainty. They brought our nation to the brink of default in May, and they brought our government to the brink of a shutdown last weekend. Time and time again, House Republicans have proven themselves incapable of governing — and that has consequences,” DeLauro said in a statement following the vote.
“This level of dysfunction is unprecedented, and it prevents us from being able to do our jobs as lawmakers,” she continued. “For these reasons, I voted to remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House.”
McCarthy’s removal throws the House in an unprecedented situation and state of uncertainty. Lawmakers will once again need to negotiate on long-term spending bills when government funding runs out in mid-November. And both parties are gearing up for a tough fight over the House majority heading into the 2024 elections.
Congress last voted on a motion to vacate more than a century ago in 1910, but no speaker has previously been removed through such a resolution.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., became temporary speaker until lawmakers elect a new leader. It is currently unclear who will become the next speaker, but McCarthy announced Tuesday evening that he will not seek the gavel again.
McCarthy’s rocky nine-month tenure began with multiple votes to capture the speaker’s gavel. He eventually won it after four days of voting and on the 15th ballot.
All five members of the state’s delegation voted against McCarthy during the marathon series of votes to elect a speaker back in early January. They called the situation “embarrassing” and “frustrating” at the time.
During Tuesday’s session, McCarthy supporters and members of GOP leadership defended the speaker and the tough negotiations he navigated between raising the debt ceiling and funding the government. And they warned Democrats against joining conservative hardliners’ push on the motion to vacate.
“I would say [to Democrats]: Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos, because that’s where we’re headed if we vacate the speakership,” House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., said.
But Gaetz, who has led the charge against McCarthy, pushed back on assertions that his push will cause chaos. He contended that McCarthy did not keep his commitments to certain spending levels that were promised during the January speaker votes.
“Chaos is somebody who we cannot trust with their word. He failed to meet those commitments,” Gaetz said. “McCarthy is chaos. … I think our deficit is chaos. I think governing by continuing resolutions and omnibus bills is chaos.”
And some openly wondered what it would mean for the current House majority, especially a little over a year out from the next elections.
McCarthy supporters argued the House will be “paralyzed” and that there will be consequences as the party looks to hang onto its slim majority in the 2024 elections.
“We can expect week after week of fruitless ballots while no other business can be conducted. The Democrats will revel in Republican dysfunction, and the public will rightly be repulsed,” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said. “This House will shift dramatically to the left and will effectively end Republican House majority that the voters elected in 2022.”
While many are predicting chaos in the weeks ahead, some members, like Himes, are still hopeful that Tuesday’s vote will encourage more members to work together in a bipartisan fashion, especially with another government funding fight approaching later this fall.
“It is time for Republicans to stop catering to the radical extremes of their caucus, and instead reach across the aisle to pass moderate, thoughtful legislation that focuses on helping Americans,” Himes said in a statement. “I hope that, after this historic vote to remove the Speaker, the House can move towards more productive pursuits with that purpose in mind.”
The Connecticut Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio federal policy reporter position is made possible, in part, by funding from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation and Engage CT.