Republican Kevin McCarthy, who has been ousted as the Speaker of the US House of Representatives in a right-wing revolt for the first time ever in the country’s history, has said that he will not run for the post again.
“I will not run for speaker again. I’ll have the (Republican) conference pick somebody else,” Xinhua news agency quoted McCarthy as saying to reporters after a closed-door meeting with party lawmakers late Tuesday night.
“I don’t regret standing up for choosing governing over grievance. It is my responsibility. It is my job. I do not regret negotiating. Our government is designed to find compromise,” he said, adding: “You know it was personal… It had nothing to do with spending.”
McCarthy, whobecame Speaker in January after a gruelling 15 rounds of voting in the chamber, further said that the hardliners who ousted him “are not conservatives”.
Amid party infighting, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a motion to oust McCarthy in an unprecedented move, days after he relied on Democratic votes to pass a “clean” stopgap funding bill to avert a federal government shutdown.
The 216-210 vote came nearly nine months after McCarthy won the position in a dramatic 15-round floor fight, marking the first time in US history that a House speaker has been ousted from office in a no-confidence vote in the middle of a term.
“The office of Speaker of the House is hereby declared vacant,” declared Arkansas Republican Steve Womack with a bang of his gavel, to audible gasps.
Eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting to remove McCarthy from the speakership, less than a day after hardline Republican Representative Matt Gaetz announced a resolution to oust him through a process known as “a motion to vacate”.
Gaetz and other hardline Republicans had warned for weeks they would move to oust McCarthy from his position as leader of the chamber if he relied on Democrats to pass funding legislation.
The Florida Republican accused the Speaker of making a secret deal with the White House to continue funding for Ukraine, amid negotiations to avert a partial government shutdown at the weekend.
McCarthy has denied the allegation.
Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, said in a statement on Tuesday that under the Republican majority, the House “has been restructured to empower right-wing extremists, kowtow to their harsh demands and impose a rigid partisan ideology”,
“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,” said Jeffries, referring the “Make America Great Again” slogan popularised by Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.
In a last-minute effort to avert a government shutdown, McCarthy released a stopgap funding bill on September 30, which will keep federal agencies funded at current levels until mid-November, and included $16 billion of funding for disaster relief.
The bill dropped steep spending cuts and border security provisions sought by conservative Republicans, and did not include additional aid for Ukraine sought by Democrats.
The bill was passed by the Senate and House on September 30, and was signed by President Joe Biden later that night, just a few minutes before federal government funding for this fiscal year was set to expire.
McCarthy’s proposal came as a surprise, as he had been trying to advance a funding bill with steep spending cuts and border security provisions in attempts to garner support from Republican conservatives.
His decision to put forward the “clean” stopgap funding bill was welcomed by Democrats and the White House, but had upset some Republicans, especially party hardliners in the House.
When asked on September 30 what if conservative Republican critics tried to remove him from the speakership over the funding bill, McCarthy told reporters that “If someone wants to remove (me) because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try”.
North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry, who supported McCarthy, is now the Speaker pro tempore, or interim Speaker, the BBC reported.
After the vote on Tuesday night, he gavelled the House into recess for a week.
It is unclear if he will have the full powers of the office, or merely administrative powers and the ability to supervise a new election.
The rules do not state how long a person could fill in as an interim Speaker, though a vote on a new Speaker is planned for October 11.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that President Joe Biden is hoping the House will quickly elect a new Speaker, noting that the “challenges facing our nation will not wait”.
The last two Republican Speakers — Paul Ryan and John Boehner — left Congress after repeated tangles with their more conservative colleagues.
The so-called motion to vacate had only previously been used twice in the past century to remove a Speaker — in 2015 and 2010 — though never successfully until Tuesday.