Kevin McCarthy ousted as House Speaker by his own party

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While McCarthy could have defeated the coup if enough Democrats voted to save him, it became clear early on Tuesday that this was not likely.

After a strategy meeting called by Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries on Tuesday morning, the overwhelming feeling among members was that the onus was on Republicans to save their own party from extremists in their ranks.

Democrats were particularly aggrieved that McCarthy launched an impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden, reneged on a bipartisan deal over the speakership and continued to support Donald Trump after the January 6 Capitol attack.

“We are ready, willing and able to work together with our Republican colleagues, but it is on them to join us,” Jeffries told reporters after his caucus meeting.

McCarthy, however, continued to put up a confident front, despite the fact he could only afford to lose a handful of Republican votes in order to save his job (based on the number of people at Capitol Hill today).

Not coming to McCarthy’s rescue: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.Credit: AP

“I’m an optimist because there’s no point in being anything else,” he told reporters. “It is what it is.”

Asked if he would put his hand up for speakership again if he lost the job, he replied: “We’ll see what happens.”

But by lunchtime his fate seemed all but sealed when Jeffries sent a letter to caucus members saying: “Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair.”

Former US Speaker Nancy Pelosi – who was not present to vote because she was in California mourning the death of late Senator Dianne Feinstein – also weighed in.

“The Speaker of the House is chosen by the Majority Party. In this Congress, it is the responsibility of House Republicans to choose a nominee & elect the Speaker on the Floor. At this time there is no justification for a departure from this tradition,” she said.

Earlier, McCarthy sought to head off his removal with a procedural vote that would have killed off Gaetz’ motion, but in an ominous sign, he couldn’t get the numbers. Republicans control the House by five votes, with 218 seats to 222.

The escalation of tensions within the Republican Party come after Congress on Saturday was able to pass a stopgap bill to avoid what would have been the federal government’s fourth partial shutdown in a decade and allow money to continue flowing – at least for now.

Had a shutdown occurred – which looked all but inevitable until the 11th hour – millions of troops and public servants would have been furloughed or left without pay, travellers could have faced airport chaos across the country and poor families would have struggled to access much-needed services and food assistance.

The stopgap bill will instead keep agencies open until mid-November and funded at current levels, allowing Congress to buy some time as it works on a longer-term solution. Today’s events, however, have left the House in a state of limbo.

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