For the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives successfully voted to remove its speaker, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, after a day of intraparty fighting in which Democrats refused to rescue McCarthy from a small contingent of his own party.
The push for McCarthy’s removal was led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, a GOP hardliner from Pensacola, with a small group of allies. The vote was 216 in favor of his ouster as all the Democrats joined the eight rebelling Republicans, and 210 GOP members against. The vote came only days after Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown and as the clock ticked until the next shutdown deadline in mid-November.
No other Florida Republicans joined Gaetz in voting for McCarthy’s removal. That means those voting to keep the speaker included Reps. Laurel Lee, who represents parts of Hillsborough including Thonotosassa and Plant City; Vern Buchanan, who represents eastern Hillsborough County and all of Manatee County; and Gus Bilirakis, who represents all of Citrus and Hernando counties and most of Pasco County.
“Our only chance of advancing a more conservative agenda is for us to be united,” Lee said in a statement. “Attempts to remove the Speaker will only empower Democrats and their liberal agenda. The Speaker is a strong leader who never gives up and knows what it takes to get our country back on track.”
Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of St. Petersburg, who previously had joined with Gaetz in opposing McCarthy’s speakership, was not present for Tuesday’s vote. Luna spokesperson Edie Guy said Luna was recovering from an infection after recently giving birth.
But Guy said that Luna is “flying back (to Washington) with her newborn to vote” starting Wednesday.
Luna posted on the social media platform X that she would only vote for a speaker who “publicly and clearly commits to defunding (special counsel) Jack Smith’s anti-America election interference witch hunts and subpoenas Hunter Biden while bringing a vote on the impeachment of Joe Biden to the floor of the House.” Smith has indicted former President Donald Trump twice.
All of Florida’s Democrats, including Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, voted to oust McCarthy.
“I will never vote to save a Speaker that refuses to act while innocent children are murdered at the hands of gun violence, while LGBTQ+ are under attack for who they love, and while working folks struggle to make ends meet under rising housing costs,” Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a Democrat from Orlando, said in a statement.
Many of Gaetz’s fellow Republicans showed open disdain for Gaetz’s maneuver, saying on Tuesday it hurt their ability to pass conservative priorities.
“A small group of members in coordination with the radical left socialist squad are attempting to derail the conservative GOP agenda,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican who represents parts of the Miami area, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
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Asked about the drama in Washington, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who used to be close political allies with Gaetz, called the ordeal “failure theater.” While in Congress, DeSantis was one of the founding members of the Freedom Caucus, a hardline group of conservatives who helped push then-Republican Speaker John Boehner to leave his position (though, according to Politico, DeSantis tried to stay out of that particular mutiny).
“(McCarthy) is really somebody that Donald Trump has backed and put into that position and so I think that they’ve not delivered results,” DeSantis said in a video interview posted to social media by the DeSantis War Room account affiliated with his presidential campaign. “(But) this whole movement to do this motion, look, I think a lot of that is performative. ... I’m not sure how much thought is going into that.”