Updated at 4:07 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made history: the first to be ousted from his leadership role. And Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck helped boot him out.
Buck was the sole Colorado Republican to vote to remove McCarthy as speaker, joining seven other Republicans and all Democrats to take away McCarthy’s gavel.
After the vote, Buck said he voted to remove McCarthy because he had “broken too many promises.” He added "I think the House has been dysfunctional for nine months. I think we get a new speaker and I think we move forward in unison.”
The surprise move happened after Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz offered the motion to vacate on Monday night.
Colorado Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert voted “no, for now” when her name was called while Doug Lamborn was a solid “no” on the motion to vacate, which passed 216-210. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) was named interim speaker.
“My focus right now is on getting the federal government funded through 12 individual spending bills like we promised everyone in January, delivering on the priorities of the Third District, and moving forward on the Oversight and Accountability Committee’s impeachment inquiry,” Boebert said in a statement. “Another Speaker fight right now, in my opinion, undermines those priorities at the worst possible time. It would delay the hard work and important fights necessary to get this country back on track.”
The historic vote began after an effort to table the resolution failed and a packed chamber listened to an hour of debate on why McCarthy should or should not remain speaker. It was the first time in the history of the U.S. House that the motion to vacate succeeded. The last time a motion to vacate was brought to the floor was more than 100 years ago.
Gaetz brought forward the privileged motion to vacate Monday night, requiring a vote to be held within two days. However, McCarthy moved to hold it more swiftly than that.
Colorado Springs area Rep. Lamborn said in a statement that it was an “unfortunate episode” for the House GOP. “Personal politics on the part of a few have interrupted important legislative work like passing appropriations bills to fund essential government functions while reducing wasteful spending.”
Colorado Springs area Rep. Lamborn said Congress should be focused on doing their job of funding essential services, instead of re-fighting leadership battles. “We cannot allow personal politics to distract us from this work. Recommending this motion without an acceptable alternative is unproductive,” he said in a statement.
Up until the vote, both Boebert and Buck, who have been critical of McCarthy, had not said what they planned to do.
Buck said in an MSNBC interview Monday night that he thought a motion to vacate could be successful. “I think there are probably 10-15 hard yeses on the motion to vacate.”
He supported McCarthy during the drawn-out speaker’s race in January, but added that since then, McCarthy had made promises to different groups and people. For example, he promised conservatives a budget in the range of $1.47 trillion, but during the debt ceiling deal this spring, instead negotiated a $1.66 trillion spending package. “[McCarthy] cannot be trusted and I want to understand why he acts the way he does before I make a final decision on how to vote.”
Boebert, a Gaetz ally on other issues, would not comment on her vote, saying that her constituents care about many issues, including inflation and fentanyl, “and the way Congress operates and represents them is one of them.”
McCarthy did not reach out to Democrats to help him in the vote. But if he was hoping they would, it quickly became clear after a morning caucus meeting that that would not be the case.
All of Colorado’s Democratic Representatives voted to remove McCarthy as speaker.
Looking stunned by the turn of events, Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen said: “I feel sad we’re at this point. And I feel very frustrated because Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to actually lead and bring a coalition together… to work together in a bipartisan way, and he failed to do that.”
Calling the proceedings a GOP civil war, Democratic Rep. Jason Crow said prior to the vote, “we’re not going to bail out anybody for infighting and what is their problem.”
He pointed out that the GOP set the stage for this situation by passing a rules package that allows a single member to bring up a motion to vacate. It was part of a deal McCarthy made to get far-right lawmakers to drop their objections in his quest to capture the gavel in January.
In 2015, GOP Rep. Mark Meadows filed a motion to vacate resolution against then-Speaker John Boehner, but it was not privileged and never got a vote in the House. The last time this procedure has actually made it to the floor was in 1910, when then-Republican House Speaker Joe Cannon filed the motion against himself to quell dissent in his ranks and show his support. His gesture was successful and kept the gavel.
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