Kevin McCarthy will not run for speaker again after the House ousted him from the top leadership post in a historic vote on Tuesday, a move that threatens to plunge House Republicans into even further chaos and turmoil.
“I will not seek to run again for Speaker of the House,” McCarthy wrote on X. “I may have lost a vote today, but I fought for what I believe in—and I believe in America. It has been an honor to serve.”
Before speaking publicly, McCarthy told the Republican conference of his decision behind closed doors.
The House will now need to elect a new speaker, but there is no clear alternative to McCarthy who would have the support needed to win the gavel. No House speaker has ever before been ousted through the passage of a resolution to remove them.
Immediately following the vote, GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry, a top McCarthy ally, was named interim speaker and the House went into recess as Republicans scrambled to find a path forward. The House is expected to stay out of session for the rest of the week, and Republicans are expected to hold a speaker candidate forum in a week.
The vote to oust McCarthy and his decision not to run again marks a major escalation in tensions for a House GOP conference that has been mired in infighting – and it comes just days after McCarthy successfully engineered a last-minute bipartisan effort to avert a government shutdown.
The effort to oust the speaker was led by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz and comes as a bloc of hardline conservatives continued to rebel against McCarthy, voting against key priorities of GOP leadership and repeatedly throwing up roadblocks to the speaker’s agenda.
The vote was 216 to 210 with eight Republicans voting to remove McCarthy from the speakership. The Republicans voting to oust McCarthy as speaker were: Gaetz, Eli Crane and Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Bob Good of Virginia, Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Matt Rosendale of Montana.
A number of House Republicans reacted with shock and frustration following the vote.
McCarthy ally and House Rules Chairman Tom Cole said, “Nobody knows what’s going happen next, including all the people that voted to vacate (they) have no earthly idea what, they have no plan. They have no alternative at this point. So it’s just simply a vote for chaos.”
House Democrats signaled ahead of the vote that they would not bail out McCarthy.
There is a significant amount of distrust and anger from House Democrats toward McCarthy, however, over his actions as speaker and the House GOP agenda.
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote in a letter to his caucus that leadership planned to vote in support of removing McCarthy ahead of the final vote.
“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War. Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair,” he wrote.
Prior to the final vote, the House failed to table – or block – the effort to oust McCarthy by a vote of 208 to 218 with 11 Republicans voting against the motion to table. The GOP no votes were Gaetz, Crane, Biggs, Buck, Rosendale, Good, Mace, Burchett, Cory Mills of Florida, Victoria Spartz of Indiana and Warren Davidson of Ohio.
McCarthy also told his members he will not cut a deal with Democrats, sources said.
Gaetz was directly pressed by his colleagues during a Tuesday party meeting for his grand plan, and who would replace McCarthy if he was ousted, sources said. Gaetz stood up and responded that there would need to be a new speaker’s election that plays out but didn’t name anyone he had in mind for the job.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.