A handful of Republicans in the US House of Representatives ousted Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday as partisan infighting plunged Congress into further chaos just days after narrowly averting a government shutdown.
The 216-210 vote marked the first time in history that the House had impeached its leader, with eight Republicans to 208 Democrats voting to impeach McCarthy.
The rebellion was led by Representative Matt Gaetz, a far-right Republican from Florida and a McCarthy antagonist, who accused the party leader of not doing enough to reduce federal spending.
“Kevin McCarthy is a creature of the swamp. He got into power by collecting money at special interest and redistributing it in exchange for favors. We’re getting past the fever,” Gaetz told reporters after the vote.
It was the latest moment of high drama in a year in which the Republican-controlled House has brought Washington to the brink of insolvency and a partial government shutdown.
Republicans control the chamber by a narrow 221-212 majority, meaning they can afford to lose no more than five votes if Democrats unite in opposition.
The vote left Congress in uncharted waters as it tried to update farm subsidy and nutrition programs, pass government funding bills, and consider more aid to Ukraine.
It was unclear who would succeed McCarthy.
Other Republican leaders such as Steve Scalise and Tom Emmer could be candidates, though neither has publicly expressed interest. Another member of the leadership team, Deputy Patrick McHenry, was appointed to the role on an interim basis.
The last two Republican speakers, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, left Congress after clashes with their right wing.
In theory, lawmakers could vote to reinstate McCarthy. He did not respond to questions after the vote.
In a debate on the House floor, Gaetz and a handful of allies criticized McCarthy for relying on Democratic votes to pass temporary funding that led to a partial government shutdown.
“We need a speaker who will fight for something — anything — other than staying speaker,” said Republican Rep. Bob Good.
Rep. Nancy Mace told reporters she voted to remove McCarthy as speaker because he broke promises he made to her to improve access to contraception and support a law she wrote on rapists.
“I made agreements with Kevin McCarthy and the speaker that he didn’t keep to help women in this country,” Mace said. “We didn’t do anything for them.
“When you shake my hand and make a promise and you don’t keep it, there are consequences,” she told reporters.
McCarthy’s supporters, including some of the chamber’s most vocal conservatives, have said McCarthy has successfully cut spending and pushed through other conservative priorities despite Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate. They warned that their profits would be at risk if they removed their leader.
“Think long and hard before you throw us into chaos because that’s where we’re headed,” said Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican.
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