Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., became the first speaker in history removed from the job by a vote of the U.S. house, leaving Congress in uncharted territory.
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Congress plunged into chaos today as Kevin McCarthy became the first speaker of the House in history to be removed from the job by a vote of his own chamber, the U.S. House of Representatives. McCarthy and Matt Gaetz, a fellow Republican congressman, played a game of chicken for months before the shocking moment. Susan Davis, NPR’s political correspondent, is with me at the Capitol. Hi, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.
SUMMERS: So Sue, I just want to start by putting this moment into some context. This is the first time we’ve seen something like it. What does this mean for the country right now, but also for Congress’ ability to function and govern? What does this mean for the country right now, but also the ability of Congress to function and to govern?
DAVIS: In some ways, Congress can still function because, unlike in January, the House has already been constituted, and members are sworn in. Committees can still meet. For example, lawmakers can still assist their constituents. The House must now elect a new Speaker. Other legislation cannot be discussed. Other business cannot be done. Republicans have decided to adjourn tonight. They won’t be back until Tuesday. They want to know the answer to the question: Who will be the new speaker or who will nominate someone for speaker? Kevin McCarthy announced just moments ago that he would not run for speaker again. It only took a few Republicans to vote with the majority of Democrats to essentially upend the power structures of the House of Representatives. Please remind us, briefly, how we arrived at this point. He had to fight 15 rounds, over several days, to get the votes to be speaker. In doing so, he made concessions which ultimately led to today’s demise. He agreed to amend the House rules so that only one member could bring a motion on the floor to remove him as speaker. Democrats thought it was a terrible idea. When they controlled the chamber, this rule was not allowed. McCarthy was forced to make this concession in order to gain the votes needed to become Speaker. He even said in his press remarks this evening that he now thinks that rule is a bad idea and should be changed for the next speaker. However, it’s unclear if Republicans can have the votes to change the rule so as to make it harder for him. He even said in his press remarks this evening that he now thinks that that rule is a bad idea and should be changed for the next speaker, but it’s also unclear if Republicans can have the votes to change the rule to make it harder to do this to the next speaker.
SUMMERS: I mean, we saw that Democrats, on the other side of the aisle, were pretty unified, quite forceful…
SUMMERS: …In their decision not to help McCarthy. Was that something you were surprised about?
DAVIS : I thought there would have been more discussion this morning. But Democrats came together pretty quickly. Look, it’s hard to overstate the lack of respect that most Democrats hold for Kevin McCarthy. Even up until this weekend when Kevin McCarthy appeared on TV and accused Democrats of trying to shut the government down without acknowledging the fact that Democrats were required to provide a majority vote to keep the Government open. This bad blood goes back to before Kevin McCarthy became speaker. He has authorized – or he had authorized an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, and I think that made it pretty politically impossible for any Democrat to even consider throwing a lifeline to a Republican speaker at that moment. He has now authorized – or he had authorized an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, and I think that made it pretty politically impossible for any Democrat to even consider throwing a lifeline to a Republican speaker at that moment.
SUMMERS: Last thing in the time we have left, Sue – while the House of Representatives is without a permanent leader, North Carolina Republican Representative Patrick McHenry was named interim speaker – any quick things you can tell us about him?
DAVIS: He’s a senior member of the House, but he’s still quite young. He is 47 years old. As of this evening there’s been no indication that he is interested in the position. He said he would not make a statement tonight, but several Republicans came out of the meeting…
DAVIS:…This evening, including the No. He said he would have no statement tonight, but several Republicans coming out of the meeting…
DAVIS: …This evening, including the No. We do expect him to be at least among…
DAVIS:…The nominees who could be put up next week. We do expect him to be at least among…
DAVIS: …The nominees who could be put up next week.
SUMMERS: NPR’s Susan Davis, thank you.
DAVIS: You’re welcome.
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