McCarthy abandons another bid for U.S. House speaker, votes on spending bills canceled
Former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is surrounded by staff, security and journalists as he walks to the House chamber ahead of a vote at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 03, 2023 in Washington, D.C., in which he would be removed from his post. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday evening he will not try to become speaker for a second time, ending his tenure holding the gavel after eight GOP lawmakers and Democrats voted to remove him from leadership.
“I will not run for speaker again. I’ll have the conference pick somebody else,” McCarthy said. “I hope you realize that every day I did the job regardless of whether you underestimated me or not.”
The California Republican said he “wouldn’t change a thing” about how he ran the House during the nine months he was speaker.
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A few minutes before a McCarthy press conference began, House Republican leaders announced they were canceling votes for the rest of the week and that the chamber will meet in session again at a time to be announced. The House was supposed to debate two spending bills later this week, one for programs at the Energy Department and one that would fund the Legislative Branch, including Congress.
McCarthy argued during the press conference that Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz did not file the motion to vacate on Monday evening out of genuine concern for the direction the House GOP was heading.
“Look, you all know Matt Gaetz. You know, it was personal. It had nothing to do about spending,” McCarthy said. “It all was about getting attention from you. I mean, we’re getting email fundraisers from him as he’s doing it.”
McCarthy said Gaetz’s conduct was “not becoming of a member of Congress.”
The next speaker
House Republicans could vote to name a new speaker as soon as next week. McCarthy said he might endorse someone in that race, though he said he didn’t yet know who would run.
The remaining House GOP leadership team includes Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota and conference chair Elise Stefanik of New York.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, a close McCarthy ally, was named Tuesday as the speaker pro tempore. He will likely hold that role until the chamber elects another speaker.
Other members of the House Republican Conference can run for the role of speaker as well, though they’ll need to secure the support of nearly all of the 221 Republicans in the House.
One of the more challenging tasks for the next House speaker will be figuring out a path forward on the annual government funding process ahead of a Nov. 17 deadline set in the stopgap spending bill passed last weekend, the same bill that led in part to McCarthy’s downfall.
The Republican-controlled House, Democratically-controlled Senate and President Joe Biden must reach agreement on all 12 of the full-year spending bills before then, or pass another short-term spending bill. If that doesn’t happen, a partial government shutdown would begin.
One significant challenge for the next speaker will be deciding whether to abide by the spending levels for defense and domestic discretionary programs that McCarthy and Biden brokered during debt limit talks.
Both chambers approved those spending levels with broad bipartisan votes, but the House has written its bills tens of billions of dollars below those levels and loaded them up with conservative policy language that Democrats say is a nonstarter.
McCarthy press conference
McCarthy’s decision not to seek re-election as speaker was announced during a freewheeling, 45-minute press conference inside the U.S. Capitol where he rebuked lawmakers who voted against him and told stories about private conversations he’s had with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
That press conference began just hours after eight dissident Republicans and the chamber’s Democrats voted to remove McCarthy as speaker, the first time in history such a move had been successfully made against a speaker.
Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Eli Crane of Arizona, Gaetz, Bob Good of Virginia, Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Matt Rosendale of Montana voted to remove McCarthy as speaker.
The vote to eject McCarthy came about nine months after he was elected to the role, following 15 rounds of voting over several days. McCarthy secured the votes needed after brokering an agreement with several of the party’s especially conservative members.
Several of those members claimed during the last few weeks that McCarthy wasn’t abiding by that agreement. They also rebuked him for passing the short-term spending bill last weekend that wouldn’t have gotten through the House without Democratic votes.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a written statement that McCarthy has his “sincere thanks for his service to our nation in what is often a thankless role.”
“I am particularly grateful to the Speaker for our close working partnership,” McConnell said. “As Congressional Republicans continue the essential work begun during his tenure, Speaker McCarthy’s unapologetic patriotism and unshakeable optimism will remain a valuable guide.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a written statement that Biden “hopes the House will quickly elect a Speaker.”
“The American people deserve leadership that puts the issues affecting their lives front and center, as President Biden did today with more historic action to lower prescription drug prices,” Jean-Pierre said. “Once the House has met their responsibility to elect a Speaker, he looks forward to working together with them and with the Senate to address the American peoples’ priorities.”
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