What next after US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy removed?

The US House will need to vote for a new speaker after an unprecedented vote removed Republican Kevin McCarthy.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the House floor after being ousted as Speaker of the House at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Former House Speaker Republican Kevin McCarthy leaves the floor after being removed from his role in Washington, DC on October 3, 2023 [J. Scott Applewhite/AP]

The United States House of Representatives has removed its speaker, a Republican, for the first time in the body’s 234-year history.

Democrats sided with right-wing Republicans on Tuesday to vote out the Republican’s Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House, an unprecedent move in US political history which comes amid a bitter divide inside the Republican party.

Here is a look at what comes next:

Is there an acting speaker after McCarthy’s removal?

  • Immediately following Tuesday’s 216-210 vote, Republican Representative Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy ally, was temporarily appointed acting speaker. He can only serve for a very limited time – up to three legislative days in this case.
  • The acting speaker temporary duties are vague, according to a guide to the chamber’s rules and procedures: That person “may exercise such authorities of the office of speaker as may be necessary and appropriate pending the election of a speaker or speaker pro tempore”.
  • While the speaker sets the overall legislative agenda in the House of Representatives, it is the House majority leader who schedules specific bills to debated and voted upon in the chamber.
  • Republican Representative Kelly Armstrong told reporters that McHenry’s main task will be to “get us a new speaker”. Anything further, he said, would lead to McHenry’s removal from the role.

Will there be a freeze on funding?

  • The vote to remove McCarthy came just days after the House narrowly avoided a government shutdown. McCarthy’s removal will add to ongoing uncertainty around government spending, including billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine and other international needs.
  • Until a House speaker is installed, it is unlikely that further action will be taken on bills to fund the government, with lawmakers facing a November 17 deadline to provide more money or face a partial government shutdown.
  • Battles over those bills and anger over McCarthy’s failure to win extremely deep spending cuts sought by hard-right conservatives sparked the successful move by Republican Representative Matt Gaetz to unseat McCarthy.
  • The House’s 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats huddled privately to figure out their next steps – both political and legislative – after McCarthy’s removal.
  • Each party was expected to try to settle on a candidate for new Speaker of the House. That is fairly easy for Democrats as they are solidly behind Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries, who ran for speaker in January against McCarthy and other candidates.

  • Republicans, because of their obvious divisions, especially among the small group of hardline conservatives who led the ousting of McCarthy and are seeking very deep cuts in federal spending, could have a harder time settling on a candidate.

  • McHenry could have an advantage now that he is acting speaker. It was unclear whether he wants the job. McCarthy is not barred from running again but said he would not.
  • The House finds itself in an unprecedented moment and so it was unclear exactly how quickly an election for a news speaker will be held. Normally, the elections for speaker are scheduled at the start of the new Congress every two years.

When will the vote be held for a new speaker?

  • The leaders of both parties will have to decide when they are ready to enter into the process of electing a speaker.
  • The January vote that saw McCarthy eventually elected could not get enough votes to win and had to endure 15 ballots.
  • The vote could be at least as chaotic this time around for Republicans, unless they conclude that such chaos is creating a public backlash that could doom their election prospects in 2024 and they unite.

Who can run for speaker?

  • Under the US Constitution, the House speaker does not have to be a member of Congress. That is the reason some Republicans have floated the name of former President Donald Trump for the job, even though he is running for president and has said he does not want the job.

  • “I don’t know who’s running,” McCarthy told reporters in a press conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening.
  • When asked who he thought should replace him, McCarthy said a candidate that puts “the country first”.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies