For the first time in history, on October 3, 2023, the House of Representatives voted to remove a sitting Speaker. Eight Republicans joined all Democrats in attendance to oust Kevin McCarthy, resulting in McCarthy being removed by a vote of 216 to 210. The move was unprecedented and congressional Republicans being slow to coalesce around a single candidate has revealed how splintered the differing factions within their party are.
McCarthy already entered the speakership in a remarkably weak position. He went through a record fifteen votes back in January of this year to win a majority and ascend to the role of House Speaker. As part of a concession deal to several Republican holdouts who, up to that point, had refused to back him, he agreed to restore a rule where it simply took one member of the House to force a recall vote on the speakership at any time. This would prove to be his undoing as all it took were a handful of Republicans to join the entire Democratic caucus to remove him from his position. On the Republicans’ part, their dissatisfaction with his willingness to find compromise with Democrats over the debt ceiling back in June and avoiding a government shutdown were the catalyst for a recall vote, as he was not seen as pushing forth an agenda deemed conservative enough.
In the wake of the role of House Speaker being vacant, Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) became Speaker Pro-tempore — a temporary Speaker with limited powers to hold votes that are necessary to keep the government funded. However, since McCarthy’s removal, we saw failed bids for the speakership by Rep. Steve Scalice of Louisiana and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Scalice withdrew himself from consideration after failing to win a majority of the votes to be Speaker, and Jordan was removed from his position of Speaker-delegate by House Republicans in a secret ballot after failing on three separate votes to win the 217 required votes to become Speaker.
As MONTROSE STAR went to press, no less than nine Republican candidates were running to be speaker, with Democrats all united behind House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. It would be unprecedented, but it is not impossible that moderate Republicans and Democrats join together to elect a more moderate member of the Republican Party to the speakership position — one who would be willing to meet in the middle and work in a more bipartisan fashion relative to a hardline conservative.
Without a speaker, there is no one to decide which bills advance to be voted on, essentially meaning the full work of the House of Representatives is not able to be done, outside of necessities of high magnitude like legislation that would keep the government going. While it doesn’t seem like a consensus candidate for Speaker will emerge any time soon, this is very much an ever-shifting, fluid and unprecedented moment in the House’s history.