Update: The House voted to oust former speaker Kevin McCarthy. Republican Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina will serve as acting speaker.
Originally Published: 03 OCT 23 10:22 ET
Updated: 03 OCT 23 14:51 ET
By Clare Foran, Melanie Zanona and Haley Talbot, CNN
(CNN) — The US House of Representatives on Tuesday failed to block an effort to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker, a major blow to the Republican leader that paves the way for a historic vote on whether to remove him from the job.
McCarthy now faces the biggest challenge to his leadership to date. The fight over the speakership marks a major escalation in tensions for a House GOP conference that has been mired in infighting and could be thrown into further chaos if McCarthy is pushed out – just days after McCarthy successfully engineered a last-minute bipartisan effort to avert a government shutdown.
The House voted Tuesday afternoon on a motion to table – or block – an effort led by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz to bring up what is known as a motion to vacate the chair – a rare procedural maneuver that can be used to force a vote to remove the speaker.
Because that vote failed, it is now expected that the House will vote later in the day on whether to remove McCarthy as speaker.
No House speaker has ever been ousted through the passage of a resolution to remove them.
The effort comes as a bloc of hardline conservatives have continued to thwart McCarthy, voting against key priorities of GOP leadership and repeatedly throwing up roadblocks to the speaker’s agenda.
McCarthy faces tough vote math
McCarthy can only afford to lose four GOP defections if all Democrats vote against him and all members are present and voting. But at least Republicans have already said they will back the effort to boot McCarthy, meaning that he would need Democratic votes to survive and hold onto the speakership, assuming there aren’t extensive absences during the vote.
There is a significant amount of distrust and anger from House Democrats toward McCarthy, however, over his actions as speaker and the House GOP agenda.
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote in a letter to his caucus that leadership plans to vote in support of removing McCarthy.
“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War. 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,” he wrote.
McCarthy told reporters he is “confident I will hold on.” But he conceded ahead of the vote that he faces tough odds. “If five Republicans go with Democrats, then I’m out,” McCarthy said, adding “probably so,” when pressed on whether that is likely to happen. He said he is not expecting Democrats to back him up in the vote.
McCarthy told his members he will not cut a deal with Democrats, sources said.
Gaetz was directly pressed by his colleagues during a Tuesday party meeting for his grand plan, and who would replace McCarthy if he was ousted, sources said. Gaetz stood up and responded that there would need to be a new speaker’s election that plays out but didn’t name anyone he had in mind for the job.
To force a vote, a member must go to the House floor and announce their intent to offer the resolution to remove the speaker – as Gaetz did. Doing so requires the speaker to put the resolution on the legislative schedule within two legislative days, setting up a showdown on the floor over the issue.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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