For the first time in US history, a leader of the House of Representatives has been removed from his powerful post by a parliamentary vote. A majority of the House voted to remove Republican leader Kevin McCarthy from office. The background is an internal revolt among the Republicans. The Chairman of the House of Representatives comes third in the US ranking after the President and his Vice President.

Led by Republican hardliner Matt Gaetz, several other Republicans voted to oust McCarthy. The Democrats in the chamber, in turn, decided not to come to McCarthy’s aid and voted against him. The Republicans actually have the say in the chamber, but only by a very narrow margin. Due to the number of internal revolters in their own ranks, a narrow majority against McCarthy was achieved.

McCarthy later announced that he would not run for the powerful post again. “I will not run for chairman again,” he said. He let his group elect someone else. A decision on his successor will not be made until next week at the earliest. The members of the parliamentary chamber were informed that no further votes were expected this week. This emerges, among other things, from a circular email from the Democratic group to its own MPs.

“I loved every minute”

In a partly emotional, partly aggressive appearance, McCarthy said that the chairmanship was the greatest honor for him. “I loved every minute.” He is at peace with himself. “I wouldn’t do anything differently,” he emphasized. “If I lose my job because I do what I really believe is right, then I can live with that very well.” Self-deprecatingly, he said: “I made history, didn’t I?”

At the same time, the Republican criticized the rebels within the party – especially Gaetz. McCarthy complained that it was by no means about content, but rather about personal matters – and about getting media attention. He rejected Gaetz’s allegations. “Just because Gaetz said something doesn’t mean it’s true. I haven’t heard him say a single true thing.”

McCarthy complained that it should not be possible for a leader of the House of Representatives to have the overwhelming majority of his group behind him and still be removed from office by eight MPs along with the other party. “I don’t think there should be this rule – regardless of who the chairman is.” Parliament as an institution has failed.

The leader of the revolt

Gaetz introduced a motion for McCarthy’s removal to the House of Representatives on Monday evening. The 41-year-old accused McCarthy, among other things, of making common cause with Democratic President Joe Biden instead of working for the Republican faction. The reason is the budget dispute in the USA. Gaetz was bothered by the fact that McCarthy used the votes of Democrats to avert an impending government shutdown at the last moment last weekend. On Saturday, Congress passed an interim budget until mid-November. But he also accused McCarthy of violating several intra-party agreements – so he should not be trusted.

Since the Parliamentary Chamber elects its chairman itself, it is also the only body that can force him out of office – upon request from the ranks of the MPs. However, never before has a chairman of the chamber lost his position in this way. In the history of Congress, there has only been one previous vote in the plenary session of the House of Representatives on a motion to remove the chairman. That was more than a hundred years ago: 1910.

Severe consequences

The Congress Chamber is now likely to be paralyzed for the time being by the election of a new chairman. Until the personnel details are clarified, all remaining legislative work is on hold. The parliamentary chaos comes at a time when Congress, among other things, has to pass a federal budget, as the interim budget expires in mid-November. If a new budget is not passed by the deadline, the USA will once again be heading towards a temporary standstill in government business, a “shutdown”.

The US Parliament also has to decide on new aid for Ukraine. The interim budget passed at the weekend does not provide for any further aid for the country attacked by Russia. That doesn’t mean that the US will stop supporting Ukraine from now on. However, the money approved so far is running out and new funds are needed. The internal party struggles among the US Republicans therefore also have international effects.

Gaetz had accused McCarthy of making secret agreements with Biden about further aid to Ukraine. McCarthy rejected this. Gaetz has been one of McCarthy’s bitterest opponents for some time.

McCarthy was only elected chairman in the 15th ballot in January and was therefore seen as severely weakened from the start. At that time, he had to go a long way toward accommodating the radical right in his group in order to be elected to his post with the help of their votes. Among other things, the hardliners in the parliamentary group ensured that a single member of parliament could submit a motion to remove the chairman – which Gaetz now took advantage of. The radical MPs have been pushing McCarthy relentlessly since January.