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McCarthy is ousted as House speaker. What comes next?

Ousted U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Ousted U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.


In a historic first, the most powerful Republican has been ousted.

After just nine months on the job, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was booted on Tuesday when Democrats joined eight Republicans in backing a vote calling for his ouster. Crucially, the vote was brought by the right flank of McCarthy’s party.

How’d we get here? A handful of anti-establishment, far-right Republicans have opposed McCarthy’s speakership from the get-go, but the immediate trigger was the speaker’s decision to work with Democrats over the weekend to pass a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. Though that stopgap measure, which will expire on Nov. 17, did not include more aid for Ukraine, McCarthy did agree to introduce a separate measure to dole out more funds to Kyiv, infuriating far-right members of his caucus.

The House is now in uncharted territory. The bruised and battered McCarthy, who appeared to relish the job he fought tooth and nail for back in January, said late Tuesday that he would not put his hat back in the ring, and it's unclear who might replace him. Going forward, the tear-it-all-down wing of the party, though small, likely won’t be inclined to back any lawmaker they consider to be part of the GOP establishment they despise, and so it’s unclear who – if anyone – will be able to reap the 218 votes needed to become speaker.

The repercussions are huge. As Congress controls the purse strings, the House and Senate must pass appropriation bills to fund the federal government before the current measure lapses in mid-November. Failure to do so could cause major losses for the US economy (more on that here).

Given the unprecedented nature of the situation, it’s unclear how long it’ll take to vote on a new speaker and whether the temporary speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a McCarthy ally, will bring bills to the floor for a vote.

While this chaos dims the chances of the House passing a spending bill before the mid-November deadline, it also makes the future of US aid to Ukraine increasingly murky. That’s because the right flank of the GOP vehemently opposes ongoing aid to Ukraine, and a new speaker might not want to push the matter given how it panned out for McCarthy.

Despite the fact that a majority of US lawmakers support ongoing aid for Ukraine, it’s the speaker of the House who decides which bills come to the floor for a vote.

A sign of the depths of disarray? When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked a GOP lawmaker on Tuesday evening whether he anticipates a new speaker will be tapped soon, he replied: “I have no earthly idea, brother.”

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in DC, shares his thoughts on what’s likely to come next after McCarthy’s ouster. Tune in here.


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