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U.S. House votes McCarthy out as speaker

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

It has been a historic day on Capitol Hill.

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STEVE WOMACK: The office of Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant.

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SUMMERS: Today, Kevin McCarthy became the first speaker in history to be removed by a vote of the U.S. House. Hours later, McCarthy announced he won't run for the post again.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: I believe I can continue to fight, maybe in a different manner. I will not run for speaker again. I'll have the conference pick somebody else.

SUMMERS: We're joined now by NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh for the latest. And Deirdre, you have been on Capitol Hill all day as this has been playing out. What has it been like there?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: It's been really chaotic. I mean, and we still don't know when we will have a new speaker or who it will be or even who's going to run for speaker. Like you said, the House has never voted to remove a speaker. This is really history. Now the House is really in a state of paralysis. I was in the House chamber when the vote was announced, and members sat stunned on the floor. I could even hear one yell, what happens now? It really just came down to the math. Kevin McCarthy could only lose a handful of votes due to his slim margin. But remember, McCarthy was the one who agreed to this rule back in January - that just one lawmaker can bring up a resolution to oust the speaker. Eight Republicans joined all Democrats to remove him. It became clear in the morning that was the way it was heading. But, you know, House Democrats were in no mood to help save McCarthy. But it was really still stunning to witness a party at war with itself really in real time on the House floor today.

SUMMERS: And at the center of all this, Deirdre, is Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, who was pushing that motion. What was behind that?

WALSH: Matt Gaetz has really never supported McCarthy for speaker. He voted present back in January, and he extracted some, you know, demands from him to help get him elected speaker in January. One of those demands was that he doesn't cut any deals with Democrats. And Gaetz said after the deal that McCarthy pushed forward to avoid a government shutdown over the weekend, he would move to put a resolution on the floor to oust him, and he followed through on that threat. You know, House Republicans were very angry in the run-up to the vote. Some were calling Gaetz and the members who supported him members of a fringe who are making the party look bad, making the party look chaotic. Others are reporting that Gaetz really just has a personal issue with McCarthy, and Gaetz is now raising money on social media for a possible run for Governor of Florida.

SUMMERS: I mean, Deirdre, this is perhaps the million-dollar question tonight, but what happens next?

WALSH: I wish I knew. I mean, we mentioned that McCarthy said he's not running for speaker. He did say he might endorse someone. For now, a speaker pro tem was appointed, North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry. His job basically is essentially to preside over the chamber until there is an election for speaker. McHenry is a real close ally of McCarthy's. He's very popular among members, but he took a pass at running for any leadership job at the beginning of the year. McHenry told Republicans tonight that the House is going to adjourn until next week. They're going to have a forum for candidates next Tuesday and tentatively aim to vote on a new speaker next Wednesday. We are hearing some names floated, people like Steve Scalise, McCarthy's deputy, but I expect multiple Republicans to run.

SUMMERS: Sounds like next week will be a busy week.

WALSH: For sure.

SUMMERS: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thank you.

WALSH: Thanks, Juana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.