It's the first time in American history a Speaker has been removed.
I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”
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- Laphonza Butler was sworn in to the Senate on Tuesday afternoon to fill the seat of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). (The oath)
- A New York judge overseeing former President Trump's civil fraud trial imposed a gag order on him after he made posts on Truth Social attacking the judge's law clerk. (The order)
- Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to charges of illegal possession of a firearm. The trial comes after a plea agreement fell apart earlier this year. (The plea)
- Kari Lake formally entered Arizona's Senate race as the GOP favorite. She is likely to face off with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I) and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) in a three-way race. (The race)
- The Michigan Supreme Court will allow the parents of the Oxford school shooter to stand trial for their alleged roles in the deaths of four students. James and Jennifer Crumbley are the first parents to be charged following a mass shooting in American history. (The ruling)
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Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to remove McCarthy as Speaker, marking the first time in American history that a sitting Speaker of the House has been removed. McCarthy said on Tuesday night he will not run for Speaker again. The interim Speaker of the House, also called the speaker pro tempore, is Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a close ally of McCarthy. McHenry said Republicans will have a candidate forum next Tuesday and an election next Wednesday.
The final vote was 216-210 in favor of removal. Eight Republicans voted to remove McCarthy: Andy Biggs (AZ), Ken Buck (CO), Tim Burchett (TN), Eli Crane (AZ), Matt Gaetz (FL), Bob Good (VA), Nancy Mace (SC) and Matt Rosendale (MT). Democrats could have voted to keep McCarthy in the Speaker role, but ultimately decided against it after a closed-door meeting on Tuesday morning. In the end, every Democrat in the House joined the eight Republicans, though four Democrats were absent for the vote.
The effort to remove McCarthy was spearheaded by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), with support from a hardline conservative bloc of the House who say McCarthy broke promises about cutting spending and passing appropriations bills individually. They objected to the debt ceiling deal he made with President Biden in May and the stopgap funding bill he helped pass to keep the government open this past weekend.
In January, it took 15 rounds of votes to elect McCarthy Speaker. The last time that many votes were required to pick a leader in the House was 1859. In order to win the gavel, McCarthy made concessions to Gaetz and the House Freedom Caucus, including a commitment to tie spending cuts to the debt ceiling, a promise to vote on all 12 appropriation bills individually, and a plan to balance the federal budget within 10 years. McCarthy also ceded to a rule which would allow individual House members to call a no-confidence vote on his speakership and remove him at any time.
After McCarthy passed a debt ceiling deal without spending cuts and helped pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open (rather than introducing 12 appropriations bills individually), Gaetz used the last of those concessions — the ability to bring a no-confidence vote — to oust McCarthy. Gaetz said McCarthy broke his promises and lost the trust of the House Freedom Caucus members who helped elect him.
"Kevin McCarthy went down today because nobody trusts him. Kevin McCarthy has made multiple contradictory promises," Gaetz said.
McCarthy's supporters argue that a small faction of the Republican caucus held the speaker hostage and ultimately led a revolt, despite McCarthy having the support of over 200 Republican members in the House and the majority of Republicans in the Senate.
With no House Speaker, the chamber is effectively paralyzed. That means in order to advance their agenda, Republicans will need to find a replacement for McCarthy quickly, a prospect that seems unlikely given a lack of clarity about who might step into the role.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) is considered a favorite, but is battling blood cancer, which would complicate a job that requires long hours and lots of travel. House Majority Whip Tim Emmer (R-MN) has also been floated, though he endorsed Scalise Tuesday night. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) initially said he was not interested in the job, but is now reportedly considering it, as is the lesser-known Kevin Hern (R-OK).
Some Republicans have suggested former President Donald Trump take the gavel, which is constitutionally possible but very unlikely. Meanwhile, Democrats announced they would again put forward minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY) as a candidate for speaker, in hopes of winning the votes of some moderate Republicans. That is an unlikely outcome, too, as a Speaker representing the minority party in the chamber has not been seated since the Civil War.
Today, we’re going to take a look at some reactions from the right and left to this latest development, then my take.
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What the right is saying.
- Many on the right are upset with the outcome and criticize Gaetz for spearheading the push to remove McCarthy.
- Some focus on the Democrats’ role in the vote and argue the party would have benefited politically by saving McCarthy.
- Others say the entire ordeal is being overhyped by the media and won’t have any effect on Republicans’ electoral prospects in 2024.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board said “Republicans cut off their own heads” by ousting McCarthy with no clear plan.
“Mr. McCarthy lost his job, but he rose in our esteem in recent days by the way he has handled this threatened coup. He put the country first on Saturday in refusing to let the plotters shut down the government for no good purpose. Then on Tuesday he refused to ask Democrats for a power-sharing deal in return for votes to rescue his Speakership. He put his party above his job, and his reward is that he is the first Speaker ousted in history,” the board wrote. “Mr. McCarthy accomplished more than he gets credit for during his short tenure as Speaker,” including a debt-ceiling deal “that put a cap on domestic discretionary spending and clawed back some unspent pandemic money,” as well as creating the special committee on China.
“The ouster captures the degraded state of the Republican Party in this era of rage. Members in safe seats can fuel their own fund-raising and careers by claiming to ‘fight’ against all and sundry without doing the hard work to accomplish what they claim to be fighting for. Mr. Gaetz is the prototype of this modern performance artist, as he raises money for a potential run for Florida Governor,” the board added. “Meanwhile, the House is essentially frozen. The putative GOP majority is weaker, and its ability to gain any policy victories has been undermined…The crazy left and right are cheering, but no one else is.”
In the Daily Beast, Matt Lewis argued the Democrats “blew a huge political win” by voting McCarthy out.
“It would be understandable if Democrats decided to remain neutral on Tuesday (by voting ‘present’), reasoning that it is a Republican civil war. But they didn’t. Instead, by voting ‘no’ on the procedural motion to table Rep. Matt Gaetz’s motion—and then voting ‘yes’ on his Motion to Vacate the Office of Speaker—Democrats effectively voted for Gaetz. And a vote for Gaetz is a vote for chaos. This same dynamic is reflected in the broader GOP civil war between responsible governance and dysfunction. And what’s worse is that sanity is losing,” Lewis said. “It’s not a good look.”
“McCarthy didn’t deserve (or even ask) for Democrats to bail him out. Just as McCarthy thought negotiating with Democrats was beneath him, Democrats prioritized partisanship and ‘tradition’ over doing the right thing… Although Dems aren’t to blame for this chaos, they have a moral obligation to strive for the best outcome for America, and—based on the likely alternatives—Speaker McCarthy is probably as good as it gets. Yes, this would mean they would have to go the extra mile and be the adults in a fraught situation. But isn’t it possible that Democrats would be rewarded for owning the adult brand?”
In The American Spectator, Dov Fischer said the “House chaos” is “all media hype.”
“Oh, no! McCarthy … For the first time in history … And the House is in chaos … And the Republicans cannot govern … And Matt Gaetz just handed the 2024 presidency to Joe Biden. Get real. The November 2024 election will be decided by specific discrete things: 1. Events that unfold in the last 4 weeks before November 2024. 2. Whether the GOP can do better at getting out an early turnout. 3. How the GOP deals with vote harvesting, unsupervised drop-box voting, and six-week election windows. 4. How the GOP handles poll watching and vote counting. Th-th-the-that’s all, folks,” Fischer wrote.
“The next Speaker will have to walk a bit more of the walk, not just talk the talk. Appropriate money for the wall and to police that border as though it were Stalin’s bedroom… Subsidize airfare and bus fare expended by Texas, Florida, and other border states to help transport illegal immigrants to street corners in the sanctuary cities where they are beckoned. Cut off earmarks and all the hidden bonanzas that each congressional representative tucks into the budgets,” Fischer said. Republicans need to make it hard for Biden to govern by tying him up with ”money cut offs” and investigations. “And impeach the intestines out of him.”
What the left is saying.
- The left says McCarthy’s ouster is the latest example of dysfunction within the Republican Party but is also damaging to America as a whole.
- Some say the episode shows that the only behavior Republicans won’t tolerate from their leaders is a willingness to work with the other side.
- Others praise Democratic leaders like Hakeem Jeffries for keeping the party unified throughout an unprecedented ordeal.
The New York Times editorial board said “Americans deserve better from the House of Representatives.”
“The U.S. Capitol may be perched on a hill, but it is understandable why so many Americans look down on it. One of the main reasons is that their Congress, which ought to be a global beacon of liberal values, continues to succumb to self-inflicted paralysis. How else can it be that fewer than a dozen lawmakers from the outer fringes of the Republican Party are holding one of the world’s oldest democracies hostage to their wildest whims?” the board wrote. “Without a speaker, the House can get nothing done.” There will be no way to discuss Ukraine, the immigration crisis, or how to pay for the government’s operations, “though the money runs out in six weeks.”
“Democrats have the White House and a one-seat majority in the Senate, while Republicans control the House of Representatives and appointed a supermajority of conservatives on the Supreme Court. President Biden’s executive authority extends only as far as the courts have allowed, while the only path through the Senate is with enough bipartisan support to skirt the shoals of a filibuster. The government, like the nation, is divided.” But that doesn’t excuse Congress’s inaction. “With a divided Congress, the only way to get any legislation passed is with some support from the center of both parties.”
In The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein wrote that McCarthy committed “the only sin that Republicans can’t forgive.”
“The fall of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy today demonstrated again that the one sin that cannot be forgiven in the modern Republican Party is being seen as failing to fight the Democratic agenda by any means necessary.” But McCarthy’s record doesn’t indicate a Democrat ally. “As the GOP minority leader in the previous Congress, McCarthy voted to reject the 2020 election results in two key states and tried to impede the House committee that investigated the January 6 insurrection,” Brownstein said. As Speaker, McCarthy “empowered hard-line Republican conservatives to undertake sweeping investigations of President Joe Biden’s administration as well as his son Hunter,” and unilaterally launched an impeachment inquiry into the president.
“Yet on two occasions this year, McCarthy refused to risk chaos in the domestic and global economy, choosing instead to accept bipartisan deals with Democrats, first to avoid default on the federal debt and then to keep the federal government open when it faced a possible shutdown last weekend. And that was simply too much collaboration for the eight hard-line conservative Republicans who voted to remove him today.”
In The New Republic, Grace Segers highlighted Hakeem Jeffries as “the big winner in the McCarthy trials.”
“The most powerful person currently residing in the House of Representatives is not even a member of the majority… Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has hit something of a new stride. Having amassed support from Democratic members, he’s riding a fresh wave of goodwill and maintaining a firm grasp on an often fractious caucus,” Segers wrote. “With only a four-seat majority, and eight Republicans voting to remove McCarthy from his position, the speaker needed support from Democrats to remain in power. However, Democrats—led by Jeffries—remained unified.”
“This unity is not only indicative of Democrats’ universal loathing for McCarthy but of their trust in their own leader: Jeffries’s handle on his caucus is as strong as McCarthy’s was shaky. Representative Don Beyer went so far as to call Jeffries the ‘de facto speaker,’ given his support from a plurality of House representatives,” Segers said. “Naturally, Jeffries also benefits from being minority leader rather than speaker; it’s far easier to remain unified when the primary goal is opposing the majority, rather than coalescing around a set of legislative priorities. Jeffries may not instill the same fear in his caucus that Pelosi could occasionally inspire, said a House Democratic aide, but Democrats are nonetheless united behind him.”
Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.
There's so much to unpack here that I don't think my normal "take" is sufficient. So, here are 14 observations from the last 24 hours:
- I've spoken more favorably about Gaetz and the House Freedom Caucus than most in the media. As I've said over and over, I genuinely believe pulling power back from House leadership and restoring normal appropriations and spending processes is a good thing. But this, much like the debt ceiling standoff, is a terrible use of their leverage. They booted McCarthy without a plan for a replacement or what to do next, all with only a few weeks until a government shutdown. It looks self-interested, not country-interested.
- Their position is nonsensical. Gaetz and his allies were upset that McCarthy cut a deal with Biden and Democrats to keep the government open. The deal had the support of over 100 Republicans and almost the entire Senate. So Gaetz’s response is to get seven Republicans to vote with the entire Democratic caucus and against over 200 Republicans to oust McCarthy. So: Vote with every House Democrat to punish the sin of… voting with some Democrats?
- This is really fallout from 2022 and the failed red wave. Republicans had a handful of candidates — people like Sarah Palin (who has proven herself too extreme for an Alaska that recently reformed its voting process) and John Gibbs (who ran on a far-right platform in a purple Michigan district) — who lost to Democrats in easily winnable elections. Republicans' margins got thin, so McCarthy had to make unworkable deals that were always going to fail.
- Gaetz is right about McCarthy — he’s a “swamp creature” who did everything he could to become Speaker, including saying he'd do one thing then doing another. Over and over and over. And Gaetz is ostensibly holding him accountable for that behavior, which is anathema to many in the Republican base. Consider this perspective from former Rep. Justin Amash (MI), a longtime Republican turned independent: "Kevin McCarthy was by far the worst leader I served with in the Republican conference. Unprincipled, incompetent, duplicitous, vindictive, and entirely transactional."
- Gaetz made McCarthy’s job impossible. He and most of the eight Republicans issued demands on spending and appropriations bills that never would have passed, which is part of the reason McCarthy wasn’t able to honor his promise to bring the bills up individually. As The Wall Street Journal editorial board put it, there is a good argument McCarthy’s transactionalism actually helped him be a pretty effective speaker and Republicans just cut off their own head.
- The argument we cited above from Matt Lewis, that "Democrats should have done something," is really silly to me. Democrats were actually considering saving McCarthy, but McCarthy spent Sunday blaming Democrats for the near shutdown and said he wouldn't do a deal with them to keep his speakership. He already reneged on his deal with Biden and launched a (dubious!) impeachment inquiry that many in his party don't support. Why would Democrats "save" him? Why is it on them to solve Republican divisions or reward McCarthy’s behavior, when he is openly refusing their help, blaming them for his caucus’s problems, and trying to impeach their president?
- That being said… Democrats really might regret not saving McCarthy! He is duplicitous and unreliable and seemed held hostage. But he was also, in many ways, predictable. He respected D.C. and the office. He was willing to build relationships with some Democrats. He did the right thing by keeping the government open, striking a deal on the debt ceiling, and looking for some bipartisan wins. Now Democrats may end up with someone more extreme and more captured by the right flank. It is very possible they end up in a worse position to advance their agenda.
- Nancy Pelosi. In retrospect... wow. For a couple of years, she had the exact same five-seat majority that McCarthy had. I have a hard time remembering a day where five members of her party openly criticized her, let alone tried to remove her as Speaker. Of course, I despise the way she took power from her members and shoved legislation down their throats. And I don't respect the spineless Democratic representatives who never fought back when they disagreed. But still, you gotta respect Pelosi as a tactician who managed to always get what she wanted. Now more than ever.
- Funny thing: This entire drama is something politicos and journalists like me could obsess over and talk about all day, but it probably won't impact your average American at all. I can't think of a single other story off the top of my head with a larger gap between "historical significance" and "will matter to average Americans" than this one. It's quite possible (unless this leads to another government shutdown) that none of this impacts 99% of you in any tangible way. So there's that.
- Donald Trump is the de facto leader of the Republican Party, and his political instincts (as they pertain to the party’s base) are typically better than most career politicians’. For whatever it's worth, this is how he reacted to the news: "Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves? Why aren't they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our Country?"
- Fox News reporter Guy Benson hit the bullseye when he tweeted this: "It’s just perfect that House R’s are now trying to huddle and figure out what the hell to do next and Matt Gaetz is….right where he wants to be, on the House steps surrounded by journalists who hate him (but love R on R chaos and therefore love this)..." That really is the whole ball game, in my opinion.
- We literally don’t know what happens now. This is, as has been said a lot recently, unprecedented. But there are some experts who think McHenry, the interim speaker, can actually preside over normal congressional business if his colleagues let him. It’s possible he ends up in this position for much longer than a week, and it’s also possible the business of Congress restarts under his stewardship, despite the common understanding that nothing can happen in the House until a new Speaker is elected.
- Don't be surprised if Matt Gaetz ends up getting expelled from Congress, or House Republicans change the rules to neuter him. Remember: 210 Republicans backed McCarthy, and eight voted against him. If they didn't loathe Gaetz already, many do now. On top of that, he is in the middle of an ethics investigation that very well could result in a damning report.
- You know who is elated right now? Joe Biden. Approval ratings in the mud. Economic sentiment is terrible. Stories about him being too old in every news outlet. And now... this. More evidence he can use to say "Republicans aren't a serious party and they are incapable of governing." Shoot, he doesn’t even have to. North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis said it yesterday: “It raises questions about whether or not some Republicans can govern,” he told reporters. “That’s going to be an issue.” It's a gift for Democrats at a time they really needed it.
Your questions, answered.
Once again, we're skipping today's reader question to give our main story some extra space.
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Under the radar.
Former Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly confirmed for the first time anonymous accounts of former President Trump's conduct in office. Kelly told CNN that Trump did, indeed, describe prisoners of war or those wounded in combat as "suckers" and also alleged that Trump didn't want to be seen next to military amputees because "it doesn't look good for me." He also confirmed a report from a 2020 story in The Atlantic that Trump didn't want to visit the graves of American soldiers during a trip to France because they were "losers." He said Trump is "not truthful" about his position on abortion and claimed he "admires autocrats and murderous dictators." Kelly was Trump's longest-serving chief of staff and had resisted confirming many of the allegations on the record until Trump attacked Gen. Mark Milley last week and accused him of treason. CNN has the statement.
- 270. The number of days Kevin McCarthy served as Speaker of the House, the third-fewest in American history.
- 1865. The last time a Speaker of the House had a shorter tenure than McCarthy’s 270 days.
- 96.3%. The percentage of House Republicans who voted to keep McCarthy as Speaker of the House.
- 0 of 208. The number of House Democrats who were present and voted to keep McCarthy as Speaker of the House.
- 40 of 49. The number of Senate Republicans who voted to support the stopgap funding bill.
- 433. The current number of active members of the House — 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats.
- One year ago today we covered Ukraine's latest advance.
- The most clicked link in yesterday's newsletter was the story of North Dakota state Senator Doug Larsen's plane crash.
- Overstayed her welcome: 481 Tangle readers responded to our poll asking what Senator Dianne Feinstein's legacy is, with 44% saying it's "mixed positive and negative." 35% said it is "mostly positive," 11% said it is "mostly negative," 5% said it is "overwhelmingly negative," and 3% said it is "overwhelmingly positive." "If she had resigned two years ago or earlier, I would overwhelmingly say she is a pioneer and incredible example of integrity and moderation in the senate. But the stubborn refusal to resign until death is still a massive stain in my mind that can’t be overlooked," one respondent said.
- Nothing to do with politics: My friend and YouTube star MKBHD explains why your phone will ring at 2:20 EDT today.
- Take the poll. How much does Kevin McCarthy's ouster matter to you? Let us know!
Let's fix it.
Our presidential debates don’t appear to be working. I’ve come up with a few ideas on how to fix them. Check out our latest YouTube video:
Have a nice day.
Brad Montague is an author of books aimed at engaging the curiosity of kids, and the creator of the hit web series Kid President and Kid Congress. In 2011, some middle schoolers approached him for help with a problem they learned about in their local shelters — a shortage of socks. Now every fall, when the weather turns cold and the need for warm clothing gets larger, he celebrates ‘Socktober’ as a month to donate much-needed socks to shelters, and encourages others to start their own drives. “This year, Socktober drives are happening across the United States and beyond. Schools have made it one of their annual community projects,” Montague said in a blog post. “We’ve seen places like Sesame Workshop, Happy Socks, Bonobos, Microsoft, and more join in.” Happy Socktober! Good Good Good has the story.
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