A resolution — titled a motion to vacate — from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., passed Tuesday with the support of eight Republicans and all the Democrats present and voting. The vote made McCarthy the first speaker in history to be removed from office, a bitter humiliation that came after less than nine months on the job.
The California Republican told his conference shortly after that he would not run for the job again. It is a stunning outcome in the House that shocked lawmakers of both parties and left them wondering what the future will bring.
Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, now the acting speaker, declared the House in recess until both parties can decide on a path forward. There is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority now that McCarthy has opted not to run for the job again.
Here's a closer look at what could happen next:
Who is in charge of the House now?
Immediately after the vote, McHenry, a close McCarthy ally, was named temporary speaker or speaker pro tempore. The North Carolina Republican was picked from a list that the speaker is required to keep of members who can serve in this position in the event a chair is vacated.
McCarthy turned over that private list to the House clerk in January when he was first elected speaker. And while McHenry can serve in the temporary role indefinitely, he does not have the full power of a duly elected speaker but only those that are deemed “necessary and appropriate” for the purpose of electing someone to the job, according to the rules governing the House.
McHenry will be unable to bring legislation to the floor or take it off. He also does not have the power to issue subpoenas or sign off on any other official House business that would require the approval of the speaker.
What happens next?
The first order of business for McHenry would be to elect a new speaker.
As of now, it is unclear who House Republicans will nominate for the speakership. Some members left the chamber Tuesday determined to renominate McCarthy and vote for him for speaker until it passes. But now that he is out of the running, the path is clear for any Republican to jump in.
Some members, including Gaetz, have been broaching potential consensus candidates like Majority Leader Steve Scalise or Whip Tom Emmer who they see as bringing the conference together. Other names up for discussion include Rep. Kevin Hern, chair of the Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a favorite of the House Freedom Caucus.
Once Republicans decide who to nominate for speaker, the House would have to vote as many times as it takes for a candidate to receive the majority of those present and voting for speaker. It can quickly become an arduous exercise, as it did in January when it took McCarthy an unprecedented 15 rounds to win the gavel.