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Arizona's Andy Biggs, Eli Crane voted to remove U.S. House speaker McCarthy

By Ben Giles
NPR
Published: Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 3:28pm
Updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2023 - 10:44am

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Andy Biggs and Eli Crane
U.S. House of Representatives
Andy Biggs (left) and Eli Crane

In a historic first, the U.S. House narrowly voted Tuesday to remove California Republican Kevin McCarthy as speaker.

Only eight Republicans in the chamber voted in favor of what’s called a motion to vacate the chair, including two Arizona congressmen: Representatives Andy Biggs and Eli Crane. The final vote was 216-210 in favor.

In a floor speech, Biggs criticized McCarthy for failing to leverage the budget for enhanced border security.

"Yes, I think it’s time to make a change. I’m not the only one. And that’s, it’s somber. Thus it is somber," Biggs said.

Arizona’s other four congressional Republicans voted not to remove McCarthy.

The House must now hold votes on a new speaker.

Interim speaker named

Congress has now entered uncharted territory: The House will be forced to hold votes on a new speaker, though McCarthy's defectors have not named any alternative nominee. It's not clear whether McCarthy will run for the position again, or any other Republican can win enough votes to secure the gavel.

The vote marks what could be the end of a fraught speakership for McCarthy. It took him 15 rounds of voting to secure the position in January. And in recent weeks, hardliners within his party blocked his efforts to pass a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, the chair of the Financial Services Committee, has been named speaker pro tempore, or interim speaker, until a new speaker is elected. House Republicans are set to meet this evening to discuss the path forward.

Republicans split into factions

McCarthy was defiant but resigned to the vote following a lengthy meeting of House Republicans on Tuesday morning.

"If you throw a speaker out that has 99 percent of their conference, that kept government open and paid the troops, I think we're in a really bad place," McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol Tuesday morning.

Ahead of the vote, Democrats and Republicans huddled in corners and gathered in groups on the House floor, furiously trying to calculate whether or not McCarthy would survive the challenge. It would take a majority of the members present and voting to remove McCarthy, leaving both parties tabulating exactly how many members were in the chamber.

Counting members turned into an intense project as a group of McCarthy's critics sat in the back corner of the House floor with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the member who set the revolt in motion. Across the room, McCarthy's allies huddled with the speaker's floor staff looking at notes and their phones.

McCarthy admitted that he may not have enough Republican votes to remain speaker, but he says he isn't willing to offer any concessions to Democrats to help him say in power.

Democrats refuse to save McCarthy

The U.S. Capitol
Architect of the Capitol
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

That defiant tone helped unify Democrats against him, opting instead to let Republicans sort out their differences on their own.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said it is up to Republicans to "break with extremists."

"We are ready, willing and able to work together with our Republican colleagues but it is on them to join us to move the Congress and the country forward," Jeffries told reporters in the Capitol.

NPR reporters Deirdre Walsh, Kelsey Snell and Claudia Grisales contributed to this story.

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