The House is voting on whether to remove Kevin McCarthy from the speakership — an outcome that seems increasingly likely.
Lawmakers voted earlier Tuesday 208-218 on a procedural motion earlier in the day to table, or kill, the “motion to vacate” the California Republican from his seat.
Ten Republicans voted in favor of proceeding to the formal motion, alongside all Democrats, who collectively opted not to come to McCarthy’s rescue. Those margins will have to change on the motion to vacate for McCarthy to retain the gavel.
But many conservative hardliners, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), feel betrayed by McCarthy’s decision to work across the aisle over the weekend to avoid a government shutdown rather than pursue partisan proposals that had no chance of becoming law.
They are also still smarting over his signoff on a deal to raise the debt ceiling in the spring and generally accuse the speaker of reneging on a litany of promises made to members back in January as a condition of giving McCarthy the speakership after 15 ballots.
One promise they say he broke is that the House would pass the 12 annual spending bills rather than greenlight stopgap spending bills known as continuing resolutions, or CRs.
“The speaker fought though 15 votes in January to become speaker but was only willing to fight through one failed CR before surrendering to Democrats on Saturday,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) during debate on the House floor. “We need a speaker who is willing to fight for something — anything — other than becoming speaker.”
McCarthy’s allies took turns during the debate to defend their party’s leader, imploring colleagues not to plunge the legislative body into a state of chaos.
“Last Saturday we were on the verge of a government shutdown … that the vast majority of members in this chamber did not want,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the House Rules Committee. “[McCarthy] put his political neck on the line, knowing this day was coming, to do the right thing.”
Entering the chamber before the vote Tuesday, McCarthy projected confidence: “I feel good,” he said.
“Look, I’m an optimist,” he continued, “because I think there’s no point in being anything else. This is a big honor to be able to be there. I think we’ve been very successful at different points. I just would not understand that there’s a handful of Republicans who joined Democrats who get to determine who’s the speaker of the House. But it is what it is. These are the same ones who opposed me before, and so they are turning the floor over to the Democrats.”
Asked if he would seek renomination for speaker if he is ultimately ousted, McCarthy replied, “We’ll see what happens.”